Myth Busting: Oxygen Spray Cans Are Not Useful To COVID-19 Patients

This article is a part of a series by The Better India to share verified information about COVID-19 care. While several posts on various aspects of fighting COVID-19 are being circulated on social media and messaging services like WhatsApp, we urge you not to trust unverified content. To separate fact from fiction, we will be sharing the videos and content with doctors and experts and bring you their responses with scientific research-backed information.

When resorting to social media to seek help from the kindness of strangers, many have been asking for leads and contact details of suppliers of oxygen cylinders.

But a viral video, in which claims of oxygen spray cans providing you with ‘instant access’ to oxygen and the canisters marketed as ‘life savers’, is doing the rounds on social media.

Now, there are online retail platforms where portable oxygen sprays are being sold at upwards of a few thousand rupees each. To understand the efficacy of such spray cans, The Better India caught up with Dr Bharat Gopal, Senior Consultant Pulmonology Fortis Vasant Kunj.

Asked if it would be worthwhile for one to invest in a portable oxygen spray for any medical emergency. Dr Bharat says, “No, not at all. A patient in need of oxygen would require at least 1 litre per minute. While portable oxygen spray canisters can have up to 12 litres of oxygen, this will not last for more than 10 minutes or even less and delays the actions required.”

Commenting on claims being made by some products to save lives, he says, “Such products give a false sense of security and delay patients from seeking timely medical care. ”

Dr Bharat Gopal

“One should not fall for any such claims being made.” He also adds that there is no difference between medical grade oxygen and the ones that these spray cans have in them. The difference is in its administration.

Regarding the use of such oxygen spray cans even for a few minutes to help alleviate the oxygen levels, he says, “The use of these oxygen spray cans will hardly help in times of acute respiratory failure. One requires a continuous, high flow of oxygen supply with a proper interface.”

These spray cans may be used in certain sports activities, high-altitude climbing and expeditions, adds Dr Bharat, however not in the case of having to treat a COVID-19 patient.

Asked if such oxygen spray cans can be stored at home, he says, “That’s not a very good idea. We all know oxygen supports combustion so not storing this in a proper manner could be hazardous.”

Speaking about cases where a patient in home isolation is being administered oxygen, Dr Bharat says, “Any oxygen being used has to be under supervision of a medical doctor or trained medical professional only. We use upto 5 litres/minute easily in many chronic respiratory diseases. But for acute conditions like COVID-19, this is just bridge therapy till a bed is available and if it is rising above 2-3 litres/minute then the patient should be in hospital.”

(Edited by Yoshita Rao)

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