As India struggles with a deadly second wave of the pandemic, its health system is under severe strain.
Hospitals are short of oxygen for patients, and as people try to supply themselves, online misinformation is spreading.
Includes misleading claims about ways to treat falling oxygen levels ̵
We looked at some of them.
The nebulizer cannot deliver oxygen
A video of a doctor claiming that a nebulizer – a small medical device for delivering a fine spray of medicine to patients – can be used instead of an oxygen cylinder is widely circulated on social media.
In a video shared on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, he can be seen demonstrating how to use it, explaining to Hindi that “our environment has enough oxygen that this (nebulizer) can provide.”
He goes on to say, “All you need is a nebulizer and you can draw oxygen out of it.”
The hospital at the post – near the capital Delhi – distanced itself from the claim in the video, saying the use of a nebulizer was not supported by “evidence or research”.
Other medical experts have also pointed out that the technique is completely ineffective in delivering extra oxygen.
Once the video was widely distributed,, the doctor who appeared in it responded to the criticism by releasing another video, saying it was “misunderstood.”
He said he did not intend to suggest that nebulizers could replace oxygen cylinders, but did not explain why he 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 of it in a recent address.
It was shown while Mr Modi said that “many doctors share information via social media, consult by phone and WhatsApp”, although the audio was not used.
Herbal medicines do not work and can be dangerous
Indian social media platforms are flooded with messages offering various herbal home remedies to treat Covid-19’s symptoms, such as falling oxygen levels.
A common “medicine” suggests that a combination of camphor, cloves, clove seeds, and eucalyptus oil will be helpful in maintaining oxygen levels while you suffer from the virus.
There is no evidence that this can help people who are infected.
A video promoting this mixture, presented by a doctor of traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine, has been shared on Facebook more than 23,000 times, as well as on WhatsApp.
In fact, camphor oil, widely used in skin creams and ointments, is potentially harmful if consumed internally.
The US Centers for Disease Control warns that inhaling camphor fumes can cause poisoning.
Lemons are also not the answer
A senior Indian politician and businessman recently said that two drops of lemon juice in the nose can increase oxygen saturation levels.
Vijay Sankeshwar said he offered it to his colleagues, whose oxygen levels were low and “within half an hour, oxygen levels rose from 88% to 96%.” He went on to say that 80% of oxygen deficiency in India can be solved with the help of this medicine.
However, there is no evidence that this treatment has any effect on blood oxygen saturation levels.
And neither are “magical” deep breaths
India’s most popular yoga guru, Baba Ramdev, appears on news channels and has videos on his YouTube channel that he says show you how to increase oxygen levels at home.
In the video, he says, “There’s a tinge and a cry for oxygen all over the country, but I’m going to show you magic,” as he carries a blood oxygen meter on one of his fingers.
In the video, which had more than 300,000 views on his YouTube channel, he demonstrated breathing exercises in which he held his breath in a sitting position and showed the oxygen levels in his blood, which dropped well below the recommended safe level.
But then he says, “Take two deep breaths, you’ll get oxygen (back in the blood), there’s plenty of it (in the environment).”
While practicing yoga is usually good for your health, in cases where oxygen saturation levels fall due to a medical condition such as Covid-19, medical oxygen (which is almost 100% pure oxygen) is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“If the oxygen levels are low, if they are low for a long time, if it is not treated, then the cells themselves stop working well. Again, the life-saving treatment here is medical oxygen,” said a WHO doctor. Janet Diaz.
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