Oxygen bars were first opened in the US in the late 1990’s and the trend has caught on with customers increasingly paying to sniff 40% oxygen through a plastic hose inserted into their nostrils.  You can even pay a little extra to choose a flavour of oxygen including peppermint, cranberry and scented candles.The oxygen experience in a bar can last from a few minutes to about 20 minutes, depending on customers’ preferences and how much they’re willing to pay.
Oxygen bar owners are careful not to make any medical claims for their products, as there have been no conclusive studies or research into any potential medical benefits from using the oxygen. They claim it is only for recreational purposes and rely on testimonies from customers who believe that there are benefits. Legally, according to the American Government, dispensed oxygen is deemed as a prescription drug and many are fighting for stricter controls and the presence of medical personnel within these oxygen bars.
Healthy or Just Hype?
Testimonials from regular oxygen bar users claim that their visits help to reduce stress, relieve symptoms from pollution, increase energy and alertness, improve hangovers and help with headaches and sinus problems. However there are no long-term, well-controlled scientific studies that support any of these claims for oxygen in healthy people. The other argument is that people with healthy lungs don’t need additional oxygen, although how many of us have our lungs at the peak of their ability?!
The American Lung Association states that there is unlikely to be any beneficial physiological effects for healthy people inhaling oxygen but also states that there is no evidence that inhaling oxygen would be harmful either.
What if your lungs are unhealthy or suffering with a medical condition? Sufferers would inhale oxygen at home anyway so is this not the same thing? Medical professionals have agreed that sufferers should not attend these oxygen bars, as each individual has unique oxygen requirements that require monitoring and adapting by their doctor and this cannot be regulated at these bars and maybe unsafe or impairing upon treatment, in some cases too much oxygen is dangerous or could stop someone breathing.
One of the biggest concerns about oxygen bars is the use of “flavoured” oxygen. Each flavour is made by bubbling oxygen through bottles containing aromatic solutions, and then pumping the vaporized scent through the hose. Some bars use oil-free, food-grade particles to produce the aroma, but others may use aroma oils. Inhaling oily substances can lead to a serious inflammation of the lungs, known as lipoid pneumonia. Even if an oil-free medium is used, the purity or sterility of the scent cannot be guaranteed. Susceptible customers run the risk of inhaling allergens or irritants that may cause them to wheeze. Inhalation of live contaminants such as bacteria or other pathogens may also lead to infection. Some of these bars are also located in casinos and nightclubs where smoking is common and there is a risk as oxygen fuels combustion and there are no strict policies regulating this.
It seems that oxygen bars require a lot more testing, research and regulation as well as medical input before they can be deemed safe to use for healthy individuals. For sufferers of medical conditions whereby they use oxygen therapy, it is believed at the moment to be medically unsafe to mess around with your treatment regime. The testimonials may in the future be proven to be correct or perhaps they are just psychosomatic. The truth is still yet to be discovered.
References: http://www.medicinenet.com and http://www.webmd.com