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As India battles a deadly second wave of the pandemic, its healthcare system has been strained.
Hospitals are experiencing oxygen shortages for patients, and as people try to stock up on their own, misinformation online is spreading.
It includes misleading claims about ways to deal with low oxygen levels – one of the symptoms of Covid-19.
We have looked at some of them.
A nebulizer cannot deliver oxygen
A video was shared widely on social media of a doctor claiming that a nebulizer – a small medical device for delivering a fine spray of medication to patients – can be used in place of a bottle of oxygen.
In the video, which was posted on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, he can be seen demonstrating how to use it, explaining in 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 from it.”
The hospital named in the post – near the capital Delhi – distanced itself from the video’s claim, saying the use of a nebulizer was not supported by “any evidence or scientific study. “.
Other medical experts have also pointed out that the technique is completely ineffective in providing supplemental oxygen.
After the video was shared widely, the doctor who appeared there responded to the criticism by posting another music video, saying it had been “misunderstood”.
He said he didn’t want to suggest that nebulizers could replace oxygen cylinders, but he didn’t explain why he said you could get oxygen from them.
The original video continues to be widely disseminated and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi even used a screenshot of it in a recent address.
It was posted while Mr Modi said that “many doctors share information through social media, consult by phone and WhatsApp,” although audio was not used.
Herbal remedies don’t work and can be dangerous
Indian social media platforms have been inundated with posts suggesting various herbal home remedies to treat symptoms of Covid-19, such as low oxygen levels.
A widely shared “cure” suggests that a mixture of camphor, cloves, carom seeds and eucalyptus oil will be beneficial in maintaining oxygen levels while suffering from the virus.
There is no evidence that it can help those infected.
A video promoting this blend, presented by a doctor of traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine, has been shared over 23,000 times on Facebook, as well as on WhatsApp.
In fact, camphor oil, widely used in skin creams and ointments, is potentially harmful if consumed internally.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control warns that inhaling camphor fumes could cause poisoning.
Lemons aren’t 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.
Vijay Sankeshwar said he suggested it to his colleagues whose oxygen levels were low and “within half an hour their oxygen levels went from 88% to 96%”. He went on to say that 80% of the oxygen shortage in India could be solved by using this remedy.
However, there is no evidence that this treatment has an effect on oxygen saturation levels in the blood.
And the “magic” deep breaths are not either
India’s most popular yoga guru Baba Ramdev has appeared 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 hue and screaming about oxygen all over the country, but I’ll show you the magic”, while wearing a device to measure blood oxygen levels on one of his fingers.
In the video, which has been viewed over 300,000 times on his YouTube channel, he shows breathing exercises in which he holds his breath while seated and shows that his blood oxygen level drops well below the level of safety recommended.
But then he says, “Take two deep breaths, you’ll get the oxygen (in your blood), it’s there in abundance (in the environment).”
While the practice of yoga is generally good for health, in cases where oxygen saturation levels decrease due to a medical condition such as Covid-19, medical oxygen (which is almost 100% oxygen pure) is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“If the oxygen levels are low, if they are low for a long time, if it’s not treated, then the cells themselves stop functioning well. Again, the life-saving treatment here is medical oxygen, ”says Dr WHO. Janet Diaz.
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