Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for COVID

hyperbaric chamber

COVID emerged as a medical emergency in the past two years and was declared as a global pandemic. It was the need of the time to develop and formulate treatment strategies to fight against the rising death toll. A number of researches were conducted and the studies revealed that hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) can help in curing symptoms of ‘long COVID’ or ‘post COVID-19 syndrome’. This is a situation where the symptoms persist for weeks or months even after recovering from an acute infection of the COVID-19 virus. The viral serology, however, does not hint towards an active infection in this case. 

What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is an innovative procedure that provides oxygen under high pressure, typically 1.5 to 3 times the normal atmospheric pressure. The increased oxygen pressure promotes enhanced blood flow throughout all the structures of the body which results in augmenting the natural process of regeneration of cells and tissues which occurs in all organs of the body. In addition to this, increased oxygen delivery results in increased delivery of nutrients to the body’s cells and tissues which ultimately result in better healing and also plays a role in prevention of illness.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy also restricts bacterial infections to occur in the damaged tissues by supplying enormous amounts of high-pressure oxygen to the tissues. This impairs the toxins of certain bacteria and turns off their infectious ability. Moreover, high-pressure oxygen improves the potential of our immune system and strengthens the white blood cell response against invaders. In this way, it can prove beneficial for patients suffering from COVID-19.

When a certain tissue of the body is injured, it releases harmful chemicals called free radicals that impart a great deal of damage to the tissues. This results in blood vessels to clump and stop blood supply and oxygen delivery to the injured tissues. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy identifies these problem molecules and removes them from the site to replenish the area with oxygen.

Who are the ‘long haulers’?

Long haulers are patients that are suffering from the ‘long COVID’ or the ‘post COVID-19 syndrome’. These patients experience the typical symptoms of the COVID-19 infection but the difference is that the symptoms last for more than 12 weeks after the resolution of the active infection. Symptoms include:

  1. Sore throat
  2. Cough
  3. Fever
  4. Fatigue
  5. Shortness of breath
  6. Loss of sense of taste and smell
  7. Anxiety
  8. Depression 
  9. Brain fog

How does hyperbaric oxygen therapy prove beneficial with patients suffering from long COVID?


Hyperbaric oxygen therapy provides benefits to patients suffering from long COVID or the ‘post COVID-19 syndrome in the following ways:

  1. HBOT reduces inflammation by increasing the circulating levels of anti-inflammatory mediators and cytokines. In this way, it helps in improving the symptoms in patients with long COVID.
  2. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy supplies oxygen under high pressures which delivers it to the tissues via the blood stream. In this way, it accelerates the recovery and healing process.
  3. Moreover, hyperbaric oxygen therapy helps improve neurocognitive functions in patients with post COVID-19 syndrome. It does this by delivering oxygen to the brain tissues under high partial pressure of oxygen which stimulates the oxygen sensitive and pressure sensitive genes. 

What are the side effects of this procedure?

The side effects of HBOT include:

  1. Headache
  2. Fatigue
  3. Lightheadedness
  4. Trauma to middle ear
  5. Lung collapse
  6. Sinus problems
  7. Eye damage
  8. Low blood sugar
  9. Vision problems
  10. Oxygen poisoning (Symptoms include fluid in lungs, seizures and lung failure)

What are the other uses of hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

Certain medical conditions can be effectively managed with hyperbaric oxygen therapy. These medical conditions include:

  1. Gas gangrene
  2. Progressing necrotizing infections
  3. Cyanide poisoning
  4. Actinomycosis (a fungal infection)
  5. Intracranial abscess
  6. Acute traumatic or Thermal burns
  7. Carbon monoxide poisoning
  8. Decompression sickness
  9. Necrotizing infections
  10. Chronic infections
  11. Crush injuries
  12. Diabetic wounds 
  13. Bone infections such as osteomyelitis and osteoradionecrosis
  14. Wounds that have reduced blood flow 
  15. Radiation injuries (radiation proctitis and radiation cystitis)
  16. Vascular insufficiency ulcers due to acute peripheral arterial insufficiency
  17. Air embolism
  18. Burns

What to expect during hyperbaric oxygen therapy?

Individuals undergoing the Hyperbaric oxygen therapy sit or lay down in the hyperbaric  chambers and receive oxygen under high-pressure. Only doctors or your healthcare providers can prescribe this therapy. You need to wear a medical gown that is 100% cotton. You should expect a procedure of 45 minutes or a maximum of 300 minutes. It is essential to see the doctor 5 days a week for 4 to 6 weeks. But this totally depends on the treatment plan.

The hyperbaric oxygen chamber supplies increased amounts of oxygen to the injured tissue to hasten the recovery process. Your ears may feel plugged as you experience in an air flight or during scuba diving. Swallowing or chewing gum will unplug the ears.

This procedure can prove to be a bit difficult for people suffering from claustrophobia. These individuals can opt for R3 chambers which are more spacious and provide a better experience. You can listen to music, watch TV or even sleep inside the chamber while the therapy continues.