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Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Safe for Children?

Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Safe for Children?

63% of Americans claim to have started new health practices since March 2020, when COVID-19 started to spread.

This shows that survey respondents started to add year-long priority to their health due to the pandemic.  Many people turn to fitness routines, eating healthier, and taking supplements to boost the immune system and support overall health and wellness.

Apart from this, a good amount of people are turning to natural and alternative treatments and therapy. Health and wellness has also become something for the whole family, with parents encouraging their children to take on healthier habits too.

Today, we see many wellness treatments available for children as well.

In this blog, we discuss how hyperbaric oxygen therapy is safe for kids and how parents can go about exploring this form of treatment. Before we discuss how hyperbaric oxygen is safe for children, let’s talk about how it actually works.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a form of treatment that boosts the amount of oxygen that the blood cells can carry. For over 70 years, hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been used to promote healing in organs and tissues that are lacking in oxygen.

Multiple studies have shown that HBOT reduces inflammation, improves healing, boosts the immune system and has many benefits to overall well being. This is attributed to the fact that oxygen is necessary to create energy for all our basic bodily functions. 

When we breathe through our nose or mouth, we take in around 96-98% oxygenation. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy requires breathing inside a hyperbaric chamber with 100% oxygen. The chamber is pressurized with air pressure that is greater than sea level. This increases oxygen levels in the body, which then moves into the blood plasma. This additional oxygenation stimulates growth factors that encourage healing and helps fight bacteria.

Is it safe for children to receive Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

It infuses pure pressurized oxygen into a child’s body which is carried to their tissues, blood cells, and organs to promote healing and boost performance. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is safe for children as young as 15 months, as long as they are able to sit or lay still in the hyperbaric chamber accompanied by a parent or adult guardian.

Just like an adult going through hyperbaric oxygen therapy, the child is able to benefit from the additional oxygenation that promotes healing in the body beyond its natural capabilities.

Unless your child has a pneumothorax or a collapsed lung, which is a contraindication for hyperbaric oxygen therapy at any age, hyperbaric oxygen is perfectly safe for a child. The only other concern that parents could have with hyperbaric oxygen therapy on a child is congestion in the ears due to atmosphere or air pressure.

Normally, adults just cover their nostrils and blow out the pressure. A lot of kids are unable to do this, or are too young to explain this concept to. However, the child can bring in a bottle or sippy cup into the hyperbaric chamber, and the slight swallowing is normally enough to pop pressure from the child’s ears and alleviate any discomfort from the pressure. Older kids can opt for chewing gum or a water bottle.

In fact, due to a child’s ear drums being more flexible, children may be more comfortable in the pressurized environment of the hyperbaric chamber than their parents

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is safe for children with various ailments

Children’s brains are still in the process of growing and developing rapidly, and hyperbaric oxygen therapy is highly effective in promoting blood flow in affected areas.

In children with neurologic trauma such as autism and cerebral palsy, or those who have had strokes early on, or incurred some damage during labor and delivery, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is recommended. Many of these traumas are caused by a lack of blood flow or ischemia.

Because HBOT pumps oxygen into the blood and promotes healthy circulation, this type of therapy seems very effective for encouraging neuroplasticity in children. Neuroplasticity is the term used to describe how our brains can adjust, regrow, heal, and learn new pathways. This means that our brain can adjust to certain conditions and communicate messages to the body such as taking a different pathway than what it was originally designed to do.

This helps gain back function lost in damaged or traumatized areas. One of the main fuel sources for improving neuroplasticity is through oxygen. Of course, one of the only ways to increase the oxygen absorption in the body is through hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

For cases that call for it, this is the safest and most effective treatment for children. In children with cerebral palsy and brain injury, hyperbaric oxygen combined with other therapies can improve spasticity and cognitive function.

It’s an amazing tool to improve the level of oxygen that children are able to absorb which improves nerve healing, brain healing, regrows blood vessels, and releases stem cells in the brain to promote that healing response.

How do children safely undergo Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy?

There are different types of chambers, therapies, levels of pressure, and levels of oxygen that are required for different cases, depending on the extent of the damage. Your doctor will come up with a treatment plan that works best for what the child needs.

While the hyperbaric chamber can come across as a little scary, many children tend to enjoy treatment, as long as they are taught to relieve pressure from their ears or are given something to chew or sip on while in treatment.

Apart from that, there is no discomfort that comes from receiving hyperbaric oxygen therapy. As mentioned, some kids enjoy it even more than their parents. As long as a child is able to sit or lie still, he or she can undergo hyperbaric oxygen therapy. In many cases, a parent will accompany the child inside the hyperbaric chamber.

Some kids are confident enough to take treatment alone, with a parent sitting next to the chamber. It’s important to put your child at ease, and explain that the pressurized sensation feels just like being in an airplane. When calm and prepared for the experience, children feel very comfortable in the hyperbaric chamber.

If you are looking into hyperbaric oxygen therapy for a child, you can be assured that it is a safe, simple, and effective therapy for many pediatric neurological conditions.

Contact us today and we’ll be glad to answer any questions you may have about hyperbaric oxygen therapy for children.


Vishaal Veerula, MD

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