Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder marked by impairments in communication, social interaction, and restricted/repetitive patterns of behavior or activities. The symptoms are easily detected during the early developmental period of a child causing impairment in occupational and social aspects essential for various normal daily functions.
Autism is caused by genetic and environmental risk factors such as high consumption of drug and alcohol, history of autism in immediate family members, prenatal and postnatal factors, and exposure to metal, arsenic, and toxin. Each individual displays different symptoms varying in severity. Cerebral inflammation, oxidative stress, and immune dysfunction are few of the other conditions associated with autism.
A range of therapies (speech therapy, pet therapy, art therapy, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, etc.) and medical management have been proposed to treat symptoms of autism. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for autism (HBOT) is an alternative treatment recommended for treating autism symptoms. Is HBOT safe for children?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is recommended for individuals with autism and also for those who have reduced oxygen supply to their brains. For autism, there is an increased demand for evidence‐based treatments. No therapies can completely treat individuals on the spectrum. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for autism can help in reducing the biochemical dysfunction and symptoms of autism.
For HBOT, the individuals are provided with a higher concentration of oxygen, delivered through tubes or in a chamber with atmospheric pressure higher than sea level. Inhalation of oxygen at ‘above-atmospheric level’ results in increased oxygen delivery to the brain.
For treatment, the therapists measure the inflammation and oxidative stress level, in children with autism, before and after hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for autism has no/minimal adverse effects on people.
Hyperbaric oxygen treatment has proved effective in:
- Managing the core symptoms of autism including repetitive behaviour and social communication problems
- Diminishes the challenging behaviours
- Provides relief from stress, depression, and anxiety
Thus, the goal of hyperbaric oxygen therapy is to provide an adequate supply of oxygen to the brain, ease inflammation and to manage autism symptoms. It helps in improving eye contact, communication, social skills, and level of perception.
Fatigue, claustrophobia, and headaches are side effects linked with hyperbaric oxygen treatment. In rare cases, temporary short-sightedness and sinus are also detected. It is therefore advisable to consult a trained therapist with experience in treating people with hyperbaric oxygen treatment.
Many children reportedly showed improvements in measures of behaviour such as stress and anxiety.