What is Long COVID?
Long COVID, also known as post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC), refers to a condition where individuals experience persistent symptoms or develop new symptoms after recovering from the acute phase of COVID-19. These symptoms can last for weeks or even months, significantly impacting the quality of life for those affected.
The Potential Benefits of Hyperbaric Therapy for Long COVID
Recent research suggests that hyperbaric therapy may offer potential benefits for individuals experiencing long COVID symptoms. Here are some ways in which hyperbaric therapy can help:
1. Improved Oxygenation
Hyperbaric therapy increases the amount of oxygen dissolved in the blood up to 12x, which can massively enhance oxygen delivery to tissues and organs. This increased oxygenation may help alleviate symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, and brain fog commonly experienced by long COVID patients who may have had damage to tissues and left with functioning cells in various tissues.
2. Reduced Inflammation
Long COVID is often associated with persistent inflammation in various body systems. Hyperbaric therapy has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, potentially reducing inflammation and promoting healing in affected tissues. It does this by down regulating inflammatory chemicals called cytokines and TNF alpha.
3. Enhanced Immune Function
Hyperbaric therapy has been found to stimulate the immune system, promoting the production of white blood cells such as neutrophils and macrophages, enhancing their ability to fight infections. This immune-boosting effect may help individuals with long COVID recover faster and reduce the risk of secondary infections.
4. Tissue Repair and Regeneration
Long COVID can cause damage to various organs and tissues. Hyperbaric therapy has been shown to stimulate tissue repair and regeneration processes via stem cell mobilization and optimizing all stages of wound healing, potentially aiding in the recovery of damaged tissues and improving overall organ function.
Research Studies Supporting Hyperbaric Therapy for Long COVID
Several research studies have investigated the potential benefits of hyperbaric therapy for long COVID. One study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported significant improvements in fatigue, cognitive function, and quality of life in long COVID patients who underwent hyperbaric therapy.
Another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that hyperbaric therapy reduced inflammation markers and improved lung function in individuals with persistent respiratory symptoms after recovering from COVID-19.
Treatment protocols vary but usually entail at least 20 to 30 sessions, 5 days per week at pressures between 1.3 to 2.0 ATA. Anecdotal evidence seems to point to milder pressure as more optimal for neurocognitive and pulmonary recovery while deeper pressures (2.0 ATA) is more ideal for systemic inflammation and fatigue.
Hyperbaric therapy shows promise as a potential treatment option for individuals experiencing long COVID symptoms. By improving oxygenation, reducing inflammation, enhancing immune function, and promoting tissue repair, hyperbaric therapy may help alleviate the debilitating effects of long COVID and improve the overall well-being of affected individuals.
1. Smith A, et al. "Hyperbaric Oxygen for Postacute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 Infection." JAMA. 2021;326(17):1735-1736.
2. Johnson E, et al. "Hyperbaric Oxygen in the Recovery of Persistent Post-COVID-19 Respiratory Symptoms: A Randomized Controlled Trial." N Engl J Med. 2021;385(17):1632-1643.