‘Guidance needed for oxygen aid’

PETALING JAYA: Oxygen supplementation should only be given under strict medical advice and supervision, says the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA).

Its immediate past president Datuk Dr Subramaniam Muniandy said the unregulated sale and purchase of oxygen supplementation canisters should stop as it was not beneficial and might instead cause harm.

“We are deeply concerned over the widespread advertising of these canisters for home use. Apart from the product being harmful when used incorrectly, it can also present itself as a fire hazard.

“It must be stressed that oxygen supplementation should only be used as part of a prescription from registered medical practitioners,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Dr Subramaniam said there were also advertisements highlighting the products as having been approved by the Health Ministry, and advertisements portraying children, implying that oxygen supplementation was safe for the young.

He cited comments from Universiti Malaya Professor of Occupational and Public Health Dr Victor Hoe, who said many are attempting to supplement atmospheric oxygen with either oxygen concentrators or oxygen canisters during the pandemic.

Dr Hoe said this stemmed from information that people infected with Covid-19 have a reduced partial pressure of oxygen (PaO2) in their blood.

“Home use oxygen supplementation is only prescribed for patients with chronically low PaO2 levels due to chronic lung or heart conditions.

“Even then, it should only be given in controlled amounts as excessive levels can be toxic for the patient,” he said.

Dr Hoe, who is also a life member of the MMA Wilayah branch, added that oxygen from the canister was cold and dry which required it to be conditioned before being used safely.

“Breathing cold and dry oxygen can pose damage to the lungs while also increasing the risk of lung infections such as Covid-19,” he said.

He said oxygen canisters also posed a fire hazard and users should ensure that their surroundings were free from sparks, flammable liquid and objects before use.

Meanwhile, new MMA president Dr Koh Kar Chai said healthcare reforms would be a top priority for the body.

“The process will take quite a few years, to say the least, but I believe that MMA, being the responsible medical association it is, should take the bull by its horns,” he said in his acceptance speech at MMA’s 61st AGM conducted virtually.

Dr Koh emphasised the need to continue engaging with the government on various issues concerning the healthcare system, saying doctors should take the lead.

“We should engage more regularly and purposefully with the government on the need for reforms in our healthcare system that are in the best interest of the health and well-being of the population whose healthcare we, as medical professionals, are responsible for,” he added.

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