Doctor weighs in on canned oxygen sold over the counter at drug stores

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — One of the hallmark symptoms of a serious case of COVID-19 is shortness of breath. That may have led to an increased interest in products that can help.

One of those popping up in major drug stores like Walgreen’s and CVS is canned oxygen.

This is a display in Walgreens in Sioux Falls. Cans of Boost Oxygen claim to contain 95-percent oxygen. The product is also sold online. Because canned oxygen is not medical or industrial oxygen, it can be purchased over the counter and does not require a prescription or license.

KELOLAND News wanted to know if it’s safe, so we brought a can to Dr. Anthony Hericks, a pulmonologist who specializes in helping people with breathing problems at Avera Hospital.

Hericks opened the near weightless bottle and inhaled.

“Tastes like peppermint,” he said.

That’s the other thing about the drug store oxygen, it comes in plain or flavored. So what would something like this be useful for?

“I don’t know that its useful for anything, the human body in theory needs about 90-percent oxygen in the bloodstream to function well,” said Hericks.

On Amazon, reviews of the product one person thought it would help with a hangover, he says it did not. Another tried it for cluster headaches and says it did give her relief.

Dr. Hericks says Oxygen is a vasodilator, so in some situations it can help people with headaches. He also says professional athletes may benefit from supplemental oxygen to quickly restore reserves of a chemical called ATP, which gives us energy.

“I think when you see the athletes on the sidelines, take a big burst of this oxygen, it fills up the lungs you get more in the bloodstream. Maybe you are able to make ATP a little bit quicker which means you will have a little bit more of that immediate energy available. But for the general human being that’s just jogging down the street, it’s not going to give you really that much bang for the buck,” Hericks said.

The bottom line, this doctor says it appears to be safe, but canned oxygen doesn’t really give the average person any benefits at all. In other words its more of a novelty than anything else.

This product was featured on the TV show Shark Tank.

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