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Fact check misleading allegations about oxygen therapies



Queue of people outside the oxygen supplier

Oxygen for treating Covid is becoming increasingly difficult to find in India with long queues being formed to refill cylinders

As India struggles with a deadly second wave of the pandemic, its health system has come under heavy strain.

Hospitals are experiencing a shortage of oxygen for patients, and as people try to grab their own supplies, misinformation on the internet has spread.

It includes misleading claims about ways to treat declining oxygen levels ̵

1; one of the symptoms of Covid-19.

We have looked at some of these.

An atomizer cannot deliver oxygen

A video has been widely shared on social media by a doctor claiming that a nebulizer – a small medical device to deliver a fine spray of a drug to patients – can be used instead of an oxygen cylinder.

In the video circulated on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, he can be seen demonstrating how to use it, and explaining in Hindi that “our environment has enough oxygen that this (atomizer) can provide”.

Nebulizers designed to deliver inhaled medication cannot provide oxygen to Covid patients

Nebulizers designed to deliver inhaled medication cannot provide oxygen to Covid patients

He goes on to say, “All you need is a nebulizer and you can draw oxygen from it.”

The hospital named in the position – near the capital Delhi – has distanced itself from the allegation in the video, saying the use of a nebulizer is not backed by “evidence or scientific study”.

Other medical experts have also pointed out that the technique is totally ineffective at delivering extra oxygen.

After the video was widely shared, the doctor who had appeared in it responded to the criticism by releasing another video clip, saying he had been “misunderstood.”

He said he did not mean to suggest that the nebulizers could replace oxygen cylinders, but he did not explain why he had said you could get oxygen from them.

The original video continues to be widely circulated, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi even used a screenshot from it in a recent address.

It was shown while Mr Modi said that “many doctors share information via social media, consult via phone and WhatsApp”, even though the sound was not used.

Herbal remedies do not work and can be dangerous

India’s social media platforms have been flooded with messages suggesting various herbal remedies for treating the symptoms of Covid-19, such as declining oxygen levels.

A widely shared “remedy” suggests that a mixture of camphor, clove, carom seeds and eucalyptus oil will be beneficial in maintaining oxygen levels while suffering from the virus.

Screen grab by doctor promoting herbal medicine against oxygen NO PROOF

Screen grab by doctor promoting herbal medicine against oxygen NO PROOF

There is no evidence that this can help people who are infected.

A video promoting this blend, presented by a doctor in Indian traditional Ayurvedic medicine, has been shared on Facebook more than 23,000 times as well as on WhatsApp.

In fact, camphor oil, which is widely used in skin creams and ointments, is potentially harmful if ingested internally.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that inhalation of camphor vapor can cause poisoning.

Lemons are not the answer either

A senior Indian politician and businessman recently claimed that two drops of lemon juice in the nose can increase oxygen saturation levels.

Screenshot of politicians proposing lemon aid - NO PROOF

Screenshot of politicians proposing lemon aid – NO PROOF

Vijay Sankeshwar said he suggested it to his colleagues whose oxygen levels were low and “within half an hour their oxygen levels rose from 88% to 96%”. He went on to say that 80% of India’s oxygen deficiency could be solved using this remedy.

However, there is no evidence that this treatment has any effect on oxygen saturation levels in the blood.

Nor are “magical” deep breaths

India’s most popular yoga guru, Baba Ramdev, has appeared on news channels and has videos on his YouTube channel which he claims show you how to increase oxygen levels at home.

In the video, he says “there is a tint and scream about oxygen all over the country, but I’ll show you magic” while wearing a device to measure blood oxygen levels on one of his fingers.

Yoga Guru provides home remedies to increase oxygen saturation

Yoga Guru provides home remedies to increase oxygen saturation

In the video, which has had more than 300,000 views on his YouTube channel, he demonstrates breathing exercises in which he holds his breath in a sitting position and shows that his oxygen levels in the blood fall to well below the recommended safe level.

But then he says, “Take two deep breaths, you get the oxygen (back in your blood), it’s there in abundance (in the environment).”

While practicing yoga is generally good for your health, it is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), in cases where oxygen saturation levels fall due to a medical condition such as Covid-19, medical oxygen (which is almost 100% pure oxygen).

“If oxygen levels are low, if they are low for a long time, if left untreated, the cells themselves will stop working properly. Again, the life-saving treatment here is medical oxygen,” says WHO Dr. Janet Diaz.

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