Hyperbaric Therapy for Autism: Is It a Viable Treatment for this Health Condition?

Hyperbaric Therapy for Autism

What is Autism? Is it a mental illness or disorder? There are a lot of myths around autism due to a lack of awareness and understanding among the people. Some of them termed autism as a mental disorder; some feel that autistic people are a danger to society, and some believe that they don’t have feelings. But this is not true.

However, sometimes autistic persons may find certain situations challenging while communicating with others in the society. Lack of understanding and widespread public prejudices about autism are the major reasons that lead to autistic people keeping themselves away from society because of confused stares, unknowing judgment, or even abuse sometimes. The feeling of isolation is not only destructive, but it can also impact on a person’s mental health. 

As per the head of policy for the National Autistic Society, Tim Nicholls – “Autism is not a mental illness. It is a lifelong disability and cannot be treated completely. According to him, categorizing autism under the category of mental disorder without any qualification is not at all acceptable. 

What is the definition of Autism?

Autism Spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disorder and can have a range of symptoms. It begins early in childhood and lasts till the end. It may affect how an individual acts, interacts, communicates and learns with others. They may also have repetitive behaviors and often seem to be in their world all the time.

As per the research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 59 children have been identified with autism. It can occur in all racial, ethnic, and socio-economic groups. As compared to girls, it is likely to be more times more among boys. The rate of autism was higher among families with low income. As compared to other countries, children born in the US were more likely to be diagnosed with autism. The prevalence of disorder was almost 47% higher for children with single mothers when compared to married ones. 

Common Symptoms of Autism

It is very important to know about the symptoms to understand the gravity of this disorder. Few of them mentioned below:

  • Autistic individuals have very low social skills
  • Their actions are not understandable 
  • They don’t know how to react on different situations and very little understanding of the difference between what is right and wrong
  • Autistic children or adults do not like physical contact with others
  • Their speech may also be affected depending upon the severity of the disorder
  • They are not very much empathetic to other’s needs.
  • They are being more or less sensitive to sensory input such as noise, light, etc. than other people

You may sometimes have been told that autism is an incurable and lifelong condition. Even after the technological advancements, there is no standard treatment available to treat and cure autism. Few treatments are available such as behavior and communication therapies, skills training, and medicines to control symptoms. Simultaneously, Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy or HBOT therapy is an alternative and best treatment available for fighting Autism in children.

How it works and benefits of HBOT (Hyperbaric oxygen therapy)?

It involves breathing pure oxygen in an enclosed, specially designed pressurized tube or chamber. In an HBOT chamber, the patient inhales oxygen at a pressure three times more as compared to the normal atmospheric pressure which helps your lungs to gather more oxygen. Then your blood will carry this oxygen throughout your body.

The increased oxygen in blood temporarily restores the function of the tissues to fight with the present bacteria and stimulate the release of substances called growth factors and stem cells to promote healing and fight with infection. The increased oxygen carried by the blood during during hyperbaric Oxygen therapy for autism is beneficial because they allow the brain to start repairing those areas that generally don’t receive enough oxygen. It helps to decrease the production of certain proteins that promote neuroinflammation (swelling in the brain) and inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract.

This therapy is a safe, effective and non-invasive procedure. The patient may generally require up to 40 sessions to see the improvement. This treatment is not being fully accepted, so as of now insurance doesn’t pay for it. 

According to the research done by Rossignol et al (2012) – Hyperbaric oxygen treatment in autism spectrum disorders concluded that hyperbaric oxygen therapy at the pressures commonly used in children with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (up to 1.5 atm/100% oxygen) has been reported to improve cerebral perfusion, reduce neuroinflammation and not worsen oxidative stress markers.

An improvement in several behavioral domains has been observed through the consistent application of Hyperbaric Therapy for Autism over the course of months and even years. He concluded that HBOT is a safe and effective treatment but still further studies required. They should be done by using standardized behavioral measurement tools and physiological biomarkers in a controlled study design.

Side effects from HBOT

Just like all other hundreds or thousands of treatments available in the medical field, Hyperbaric Therapy for Autism may cause side effects, if not properly done. Known to be a painless and non-invasive treatment, individuals may experience a ‘full sensation’ in the ears due to increased air pressure, temporary nearsightedness (myopia) caused by temporary eye lens changes, lung collapse caused by changes in the air pressure changes, etc.


Although Hyperbaric Therapy for Autism is an off-label treatment and there are several successful stories available, documenting the advantages of this alternative option. So we can consider this treatment as a ray of hope by many parents to treat autism in the future. If you are considering this therapy, individuals must first discuss all possible options with their health care professional and their benefits and risks. Learning all about autism and getting involved in the treatment will help you to go a long way toward helping your child.

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