The coronavirus disease is spreading to individuals through the liquid particles exposed by an infected person. Hence, if you come in contact with the neighboring air or these particles and then touch your mouth and nose, you can get the disease.
Currently, we don’t yet have any promising medicine or vaccine to treat the condition. So, potential treatment options are being explored across the globe such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Multiple experts from Wuhan, China believe that HBOT can help in building immunity against COVID-19.
The last severe pandemic that we suffered was the Spanish Flu of the United States in 1918. This pandemic took multiple years to subside. The pulmonary infection and pneumonia in COVID-19 are very similar to the hypoxia and respiratory failure of Spanish Flu. During that time, HBOT therapy was utilized to improve the condition of a severe COVID-19 patient. By the end of the study, the patient was saved and sent home.
Today, the mortality and respiratory impact in the case of coronavirus is not very different than the Spanish Flu. This is why doctors believe that HBOT therapy can help in boosting immunity against COVID-19 by penetrating inflammation and offering direct treatment for hypoxemia.
If this treatment is correctly offered under regulated conditions, it can help severe and critical COVID-19 patients. Below we have discussed how. Read on
Key Factors to Know
- COVID-19 is a disease related to respiration. Thus, lungs are affected quickly after contacting this disease.
- The early signs of the disease are shortness of breath, fever, cold, and cough. These signs appear in 2-14 days.
- The condition can show no symptoms at all, but it can also severely impact the patient and block oxygen flow completely.
- Multiple patients have the risk of developing pneumonia, which progressively increases.
- Once the virus attack starts, the oxygen level decreases in the body and the supply restricts. This impacts the heart and liver the most.
Understanding Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
In normal conditions, oxygen travels in the body with the help of red blood cells. Therefore, in COVID-19, when lungs are impacted, the concentration of oxygen reduces in the red blood cells and the body becomes hypoxic.
However, in hyperbaric oxygen therapy, the pressure of the chamber is increased and 100% oxygen is delivered to the body. Due to the increased pressure, oxygen dissolves in body fluids like lipids, plasma, and cerebral spinal fluids. This allows the oxygen to penetrate inflammation and reach to lungs, heart, kidneys, and other body parts. For this reason, hyperbaric oxygen therapy can help in severe and critical cases of COVID-19, where the patient is being shifted to ventilation or intubation.
Evidence on How HBOT Can Improve Immunity against COVID-19
In the origin city of coronavirus Wuhan, China, a team of scientists led by Dr. Harch researched the effectiveness of HBOT in building immunity against COVID-19.
In the research, 121 patients across Chinese provinces were considered by the study. The CT scans of these patients had progressive respiratory issues and a diffusion barrier to restrict oxygen, which was very similar to the Spanish Flu. When these critical patients, who were on the verge of intubation where given HBOT therapy, their situation improved. These patients successfully surpassed the critical period and recovered.
However, it is necessary to note that in this study, only patients with severe illness were considered. This is because once the cytokine storm initiates or hypoxia starts restricting the oxygen of the body, intubation is necessary. But, this invasive therapy option is not able to deliver enough oxygen and penetrate inflammation correctly.
Hence, HBOT therapy was used to treat hypoxia and penetrate inflammation in the lungs.
But, this treatment is risky in the current pandemic environment. Here are the reasons why:
- The transmission of the virus is easy. So, transporting the patient from the ward to the chamber and to the ward again can expose other people.
- Once the patient leaves the chamber, proper sanitization is necessary to avoid the spread of the virus to other patients. This is a crucial task considering the high oxygen level inside the chamber.
- One professional needs to stay with the patient to offer optimum support and adjust the pressure if the patient is unable to handle it. This exposes medical professionals to high risk. Further, proper training is needed for this procedure.
All these risks can be controlled to a great extent. For instance, medical professionals can be trained and they can use proper kits to secure themselves. This includes PPE kits, masks, shields, etc. Another example could be avoiding the use of the HBOT chamber, which is being used for COVID-19 patients, for non-COVID-19 patients.
This therapy is non-invasive and has minimal side-effects. Thus, it is possible to treat critical coronavirus cases if proper measures are taken.
With no prominent solution at hand, hyperbaric therapy gives confidence to severe COVID-19 cases. However, try visiting a clinic that is already handling coronavirus cases with HBOT to ensure that clinical recommendations are being followed. Further, as there are risks of disease transmission, avoid trying the HBOT therapy for boosting immunity against COVID-19 at home. Consult a doctor, receive advice, and then move forward with the decision.