HBOT is an important treatment option for many people, and while it has been used extensively to help adults, it is also recommended for children in many different circumstances.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy helps promote the healing process and fights infections, which can be a critical component of a health plan for people of any age. HBOT allows a child’s lungs to get more oxygen through the lungs and into the blood, which contributes to increased tissue function.
This is an important mechanism that allows HBOT to treat a range of conditions, including:
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Embolisms that block blood flow
- Wound healing/management
- Decompression sickness
- Skin grafts and flaps
- Thermal burns
What are the HBOT Benefits for Children?
The ability to treat all the above conditions is one of the most important HBOT benefits for kids, but it’s also important to note that hyperbaric therapy is a non-invasive procedure, which makes it a more appealing option in many cases.
As children breathe in the pure, high-pressure oxygen, they will be able to nourish the cells, muscles, and organs in the body.
This level of oxygen can work with antibiotics to kill bacteria and fight infections while stimulating the release of stem cells and the formation of new blood vessels. This can help heal wounds faster and enhance the body’s other systems.
Is the HBOT Process Different for Children?
The overall process for children and adults receiving HBOT treatments is relatively the same. We will get your child’s information and make sure their vitals are all good. Then, when the child is ready to get started, they will get into the HBOT chamber and the parent can sit next to the chamber where they are easily seen.
The length of the treatment is similar to an adult’s session – probably between 1 and 2 hours – and then everyone can go home together. There isn’t anything in particular that needs to be done to recover after the treatment. Everyone can just go about their day.
How Old Does the Child Have to Be?
There isn’t exactly a minimum age requirement for a child to receive HBOT. The only real requirement is that the child has the ability to sit or lay still in the chamber for an extended period of time.
Are Multiple Treatments Necessary?
The number of treatments will depend on a number of factors, including (obviously) the symptoms that we are addressing. The child may need to schedule treatments up to five days a week in order to provide the fastest and most consistent results. This will also help the benefits last longer, but that (again) depends on the condition we are treating.
Can HBOT Provide Benefits for Children with Cerebral Palsy or Autism?
There has been a lot of recent interest in the potential of pediatric HBOT to improve some of the symptoms of cerebral palsy and autism.
Let’s be direct and upfront about this: currently, this is not one of the FDA-recommended uses for HBOT, and chances are insurance isn’t going to cover hyperbaric oxygen therapy for these conditions.
However, there are some mechanics behind HBOT that seem to have some potential benefits for children with autism. According to this article from the National Institutes of Health:
“…children with autism might benefit from HBOT owing to the potential increase in cerebral perfusion occurring during treatment. Inhalation of above-atmospheric oxygen might result in an elevation of arterial partial pressure of oxygen, leading to increased oxygen delivery to the brain. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy might also have anti-inflammatory properties due to the reduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines (tumor necrosis factor–α, interferon-γ, and interleukins 1 and 6). Furthermore, HBOT might improve mitochondrial dysfunction, as well as upregulate the production of antioxidant enzymes.”
So, while this article highlighted some great potential in HBOT, it does also suggest that there isn’t enough research at the moment to make any definitive statements on the matter.
There are plenty of studies and a lot of anecdotal evidence that show support for this procedure, and there are many instances in which improvements have been significant. For example, some of these reports suggested that there were improvements in many different aspects, such as overall functioning, receptive language, and eye contact and improvements in behavior such as hyperactivity, irritability, speech, and stereotypy.
Still, there are a number of studies yet to be done before it will be accepted as a medical treatment for autism.
This does also mean that it’s hard to say how long these benefits will last in every individual child. Some may need to continue to receive treatments to maintain the benefits, while others may be able to make long-term behavior corrections by combining HBOT and other therapies.
If you have any other questions about pediatric HBOT, be sure to contact us to learn more about your child’s treatment options.