Huffing for Your Health


While water is an essential element to life that can be found for free most everywhere you look, that does not stop business from turning it into a profitable commodity. There is a whole aisle at the store dedicated to bottled water in a variety of forms. While some of us are too cheap to splurge on fancy water, it still manages to be a $283 billion global industry. With that in mind, it was only a matter of time before we circled fully around and went full Spaceballs by selling air in a can.

Boost Oxygen is the most popular brand of OTC pure oxygen in a can. I have noticed these popping up at a variety of retailers during Covid. Compressed pure oxygen is available in a variety of flavors and is small enough to fit in your purse.  

Oxygen as a medical treatment has been around forever and is incredibly effective in patients who have trouble breathing or maintaining their oxygen saturation on room air. Normally a prescription is needed to supply Oxygen tanks which can be large and obtrusive and also a fire hazard. To improve access, modern portable oxygen concentrators have been developed and are now small enough to fit in a backpack. Monitoring of your oxygen saturation can be accomplished quickly and easily by using a pulse oximeter or smartwatch. This is an excellent tool to use, especially when sick at home with a respiratory illness and wondering when to seek professional care. Being unable to maintain a steady oxygen saturation is your “seek medical care now” sign.

Like all therapies, under the proper conditions, oxygen makes a ton of sense, but how about just as a supplement or to enhance athletic performance? Oxygen supplementation is routinely used by mountain climbers when exploring extreme elevations, so if it’s good enough for them, why not for you? One man’s stairs are another man’s mountain, and oxygen supplementation increases the V02 Max for a brief period.

Still, the human respiratory system is designed to match your oxygen supply with demand. If you need more oxygen, your respiration rate increases to provide it and auxiliary oxygen should only be necessary in extreme environments. For the average healthy person, oxygen concentration is not the rate-limiting step and if the athletic benefits were that great, we would see it all over the sidelines of professional sports. They are missing a big marketing angle here, and a NASCAR sponsorship practically writes itself.

The reality is, if you truly need supplemental oxygen, the concentrators are your best bet, but these O2 cans are a perfectly safe and interesting product. They may have a diagnostic function as well, to help identify elderly patients who are not currently receiving therapy but may benefit from it. Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy has always had a place in the training regimen for world-class athletes, but recent studies are showing its effectiveness against a variety of age-related cognitive concerns.

Jacob Hyatt Pharm D.
Father of three, Husband, Pharmacist, Realtor, Landlord, Independent Health, and Medicine Reporter 

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  1. Fritz Coolidge

    Oxygen bars were a thing for a while back in the early 2000s. My family (the teens, that is) visited one when we spent a few days in Las Vegas, but I think as a fad, they have mostly faded away.

    • #1
  2. JoelB Member

    How long does a can of O2 last in normal use?

    • #2
  3. Addiction Is A Choice Member
    Addiction Is A Choice

    • #3
  4. Mad Gerald Coolidge
    Mad Gerald

    My elderly mother was advised by her Dr to start using oxygen at night.  The vendor supplied an O2 monitor that she was supposed to wear at night to prove her O2 levels were below the minimum level.  She returned the monitor at the end of the test period and an O2 concentrator was delivered for her to use.

    It was all good until the bill arrived.  She had not used the monitor correctly, invalidating the results.  Because of that Medicare declined to cover the costs.  The vendor had delivered the concentrator anyway, and the bill was something over $1000 / month.

    The concentrator went back to the vendor, and fortunately she has been OK without it.

    • #4
  5. Quietpi Member

    How many of you remember Bernard Dehydrated Food (this was before freeze drying)?  As a sales gimmick, they had cans of “Dehydrated Water!”  I had a can once.  Wonder whatever happened to it?  I don’t remember using it.

    • #5
  6. JacobHyatt Coolidge

    JoelB (View Comment):

    How long does a can of O2 last in normal use?

    They have different sizes but a few minutes maybe

    • #6
  7. OmegaPaladin Moderator

    Hyperbaric oxygen is also very useful for certain severe infections.  A lot of bacteria get scorched by any oxygen in their environment, so driving oxygen into oxygen-poor environments in the body can help the immune system and make potentially save limbs from gangrene.

    • #7
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