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Oxygen bars can be found in malls, casinos, and nightclubs. These “bars” serve purified oxygen, often infused with scents. The oxygen is administered into your nostrils through a tube.

The purified oxygen served is often advertised as being 95 percent oxygen, but this can vary greatly depending on the filtering equipment used and the flow rate that delivers it.

The natural air we breathe on a daily basis contains about 21 percent oxygen and, when combined with the delivered oxygen, dilutes the percentage. The lower the flow rate, the more it’s diluted with room air and the less you actually receive.

Proponents of recreational oxygen therapy claim that hits of purified oxygen boost energy levels, relieve stress, and may even cure hangovers, but there isn’t much evidence to back these claims.

Read on to learn more about the benefits and risks of oxygen bars, plus what to expect if you visit one.

Most claims around the benefits of oxygen bars haven’t been scientifically proven.

Proponents of oxygen bars claim purified oxygen can help:

  • increase energy levels
  • improve mood
  • improve concentration
  • improve sports performance
  • reduce stress
  • provide relief for headache and migraine
  • promote better sleep

In an older study from 1990, researchers surveyed 30 participants with chronic pulmonary obstructive disorder (COPD) who used oxygen therapy over several months. The majority of participants reported an improvement in well-being, alertness, and sleep patterns.

However, the participants used oxygen therapy continuously for several hours a day over an expanded period of time. And while the patients felt an improvement, the researchers weren’t sure how much of the perceived improvement was the result of a placebo effect.

There is evidence that supplemental oxygen may improve sleep in people with sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition that causes a person to periodically stop breathing during sleep. There doesn’t appear to be any benefit to sleep in people without this condition.

There’s limited evidence that oxygen therapy may help cluster headaches. No adverse effects were noted, though more research is needed.

If you find using oxygen bars relaxing and don’t have any medical conditions that can be worsened by extra oxygen, you may experience an improvement in the effects of stress.

The positive effects reported by people who frequent oxygen bars may be psychological — known as the placebo effect — or perhaps there are benefits that haven’t yet been studied.

The benefits of oxygen bars haven’t really been studied and neither have the risks.

A healthy person’s normal blood oxygen is between 96 and 99 percent saturated with oxygen when breathing normal air, which makes some experts question what value extra oxygen could have.

Some medical conditions benefit from supplemental oxygen, but even for these people, getting too much can be harmful and even deadly, according to research.

Administering oxygen to people admitted to the hospital with acute illnesses is a long-held standard practice. However, a study published in 2018 in The Lancet found evidence that oxygen therapy may increase the risk of death when given liberally to people with acute illness and trauma.

The scents used are delivered by bubbling the oxygen through liquid containing either an oil-free, food-grade additive or an aroma oil such as an essential oil. Inhaling oily substances can potentially lead to a serious inflammation of the lungs, known as lipoid pneumonia.

The scents used in scented oxygen can also be harmful to some people, especially those with lung diseases. According to the Lung Association, the chemicals in scents and even those made from natural plant extracts can cause allergic reactions that can range from mild to severe.

Reactions to scents can include symptoms such as:

Fire is also a concern whenever dealing with oxygen. Oxygen is nonflammable, but does support combustion.

Who should avoid oxygen bars?

Avoid oxygen bars if you have a respiratory condition, such as:

Consult your doctor before using an oxygen bar if you have a heart condition, vascular disorder, or other chronic medical condition.

Your experience will vary depending on the establishment. Oxygen bars set up as kiosks in malls and gyms don’t usually require an appointment and you may be able to simply walk up to the bar and make your selection.

When getting oxygen therapy at a spa, an appointment is usually required and oxygen treatments can often be combined with other wellness services, such as massage.

When you arrive, you’ll be presented with a selection of aromas or flavors, and a staff member will explain the benefits of each aroma. Most are fruit scents or essential oils for aromatherapy.

Once you make your selection, you’ll be taken to a recliner or other type of comfortable seating.

A cannula, which is a flexible tube that splits into two small prongs, fits loosely around your head and the prongs rest just inside the nostrils to deliver the oxygen. Once turned on, you breathe normally and relax.

Oxygen is usually offered in 5 minute increments, up to a maximum of 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the establishment.

Oxygen bars aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and each state has regulatory discretion. An online search can help you find an oxygen bar in your area if they exist.

When choosing an oxygen bar, cleanliness should be your first priority. Look for a clean facility and ask about their sanitizing process. Improperly sanitized tubing can contain bacteria and mold that can be harmful. Tubing should be exchanged after each user.

Oxygen bars charge between $1 and $2 per minute, depending on location and the scent you choose, if any.

Unlike oxygen therapy that’s provided to those with a medical need, such as a respiratory illness, recreational oxygen isn’t covered by insurance.

While the benefits of using oxygen bars haven’t been proven, if you’re healthy and want to give one a try, they appear to be safe.

If you have a respiratory or vascular condition, oxygen bars could be harmful and should be avoided. Checking with your doctor before using an oxygen bar is a good idea if you have other medical concerns.