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Friday, Dec 13, 2019

Demand for oxygen therapy to combat pollution rising but docs divided on its use

According to several hospitals in the city, there has been a rise in cases where hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), which involves breathing oxygen in a pressurised room or tube, has been administered to patients with respiratory illnesses. The therapy ensures the immune system has enough oxygen to keep the body healthy.

gurugram Updated: Nov 13, 2019 11:21 IST
Sonali Verma
Sonali Verma
Hindustan Times, Gurugram
People wearing anti pollution face masks, at National Highway 48, Shankar Chowk, in Gurugram, on Tuesday, November 05, 2019.
People wearing anti pollution face masks, at National Highway 48, Shankar Chowk, in Gurugram, on Tuesday, November 05, 2019.(Yogendra Kumar/HT PHOTO)
         

The persistent high air pollution in the city over the last month has led to respiratory problems and other health issues among residents who, doctors say, are seeking “oxygen therapy” to deal with the problem.

According to several hospitals in the city, there has been a rise in cases where hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), which involves breathing oxygen in a pressurised room or tube, has been administered to patients with respiratory illnesses. The therapy ensures the immune system has enough oxygen to keep the body healthy.

Doctors also said that many people without any severe respiratory illness too have been seeking the therapy.

However, doctors were divided on whether the therapy is effective in fighting air pollution, with a few saying it shouldn’t be the norm.

“Pollution particulates irritate lungs and the airways and patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and chronic smokers have required supplemental oxygen during high pollution days. Around five in 20 patients with respiratory distress that I see daily have needed oxygen therapy over the last few weeks,” said Dr Amitabha Ghosh, a general physician at a city hospital.

HBOT is also a preventative measure of carbon monoxide poisoning. “Oxygen therapy can combat metal, mineral toxins and wash them out of the body. Car exhaust fumes produce high concentrations of carbon monoxide,” said Dr Alok Chopra, who works at another city hospital.

He said many takers of the therapy over the last month have been people with no major diseases but those who want to counter the ill effects of pollution. However, he added, a chest X-ray and a physical examination before the process is done. “This trend is catching up in the country and people are increasingly opting for it to counter health problems that arise due to pollution,” he said.

Other hospitals confirmed they’ve been getting queries about the therapy, which can range between Rs 1,800 to Rs 5,000 per session, and how it can help; however, don’t recommend it as an anti-pollution measure. “Healthy people don’t require oxygen therapy. It doesn’t purify the blood. HBOT is recommended only for chronic, severe respiratory issues and not as a preventative measure,” said Dr Manoj Goel, a pulmonologist.

Experts also noted that preemptive measures such as masks and inhalers should be preferred to protect from pollution. “Unless the body’s oxygen levels don’t drop, one doesn’t need additional oxygen. HBOT isn’t advisable for those without any serious illness,” said Dr Mitali Agrawal, city pulmonologist.

Box

What is oxygen therapy?

The patient is placed in a tube or room where they are exposed to almost three times the normal air pressure thereby increases the volume of oxygen in the blood and in the cells, leading to better and faster healing and an immunity boost.

For whom is it recommended?

Those suffering from chronic asthma, cystic fibrosis, diabetic foot ulcers, pulmonary hypertension and wounds, and smokers. These people have reduced lung capacity and suffer from low oxygen in the blood.