Is Oxygen the Answer to Long Covid?

she was dead tired but couldn’t sleep, couldn’t think straight and could barely walk. The muscle pain in her arms and legs was so bad that she stayed in bed for days. When she got up, she used a wheelchair. And she couldn’t even concentrate on the most trivial tasks, let alone work. But doctors couldn’t agree on what was wrong with 41-year-old Maya Doari.

The sacs around her heart were inflamed, they were sure of that, so she was diagnosed with pericarditis. But when her left hand turned blue – on and off for months – her doctors told her, “Don’t try to understand,” because they couldn’t anymore.

Even a vocal cord specialist who taunted her when she tried to speak could barely muster a soft whisper. And when she tried to walk again with physical therapy, she started having seizures. “I asked, ‘Don’t you think it might be related to the Covid I had?’ They said no and sent me home because they said it was psychological.”

But her condition was real. And it may not be as unique as it sounds.

Three months earlier, Doari – a homeopath living in a small village near Jerusalem – was ill with a 24-hour fever and severe bone pain. it was covid But after those initial symptoms passed, days later, the actual symptoms began. “My doctors said my case was the worst long Covid they had ever seen.”

Covid can have many lasting effects and, for now at least, long Covid is the catch-all term used to describe them. Over 200 symptoms have been collected under this umbrella term, from the common – fatigue, fever, and “brain fog” or difficulty thinking – to the more noticeable, like Doari’s seizures and speech problems. The exact prevalence of long Covid is debated, but millions around the world have reported persistent symptoms.

But today, a year after her long Covid symptoms emerged, Doari says they are “98 per cent gone,” a turnaround linked to new research that may have uncovered a promising long Covid treatment.

It’s called hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and in July Israeli researchers published a study – in which Doari participated – that showed that using this technique to deliver large amounts of oxygen to the body appears to alleviate many of the cognitive and physical after-effects of Covid.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been around for decades and typically involves getting into a hard-shell, pressurized tube, where the air pressure is up to three times our atmospheric pressure, and breathing concentrated oxygen. Originally thought to treat curvature, a dangerous condition that can result from deep sea diving or high altitude mountaineering, it is now used to promote healing in cancer patients and burn victims, and is even used by athletes looking for a performance boost or people who have scars plastic surgery to remove.

Breathing concentrated oxygen under pressure increases the amount of it that dissolves in the blood, meaning more oxygen is transported throughout the body’s tissues. This can then increase the strength of the immune system and stimulate the release of stem cells and substances called growth factors that help tissue healing.

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