As India battles a deadly second wave of the pandemic, its healthcare system has come under severe strain.
Hospitals are experiencing shortages of oxygen for patients and, as people try to get hold of their own supplies, online misinformation has been spreading.
It includes misleading claims about ways to treat falling oxygen levels – one of the symptoms of Covid-19.
We’ve been looking at some of these.
A nebuliser cannot supply oxygen
A video has been widely shared on social media of a doctor claiming that a nebuliser – a small medical device for delivering a fine spray of a drug to patients – can be used in place of an oxygen cylinder.
In the video, which has been circulated on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, he can be seen demonstrating how to use it, explaining in Hindi that “our environment has enough oxygen that this (nebuliser) can provide”.
He goes on to say: “All you need is a nebuliser, and you can draw oxygen from it.”
The hospital named in the post – near the capital, Delhi – has distanced itself from the claim in the video, saying the use of a nebuliser has not been backed by “evidence or scientific study”.
Other medical experts have also pointed out that the technique is totally ineffective in supplying additional oxygen.
After the video was widely shared, the doctor who’d appeared in it responded to the criticism by releasing another video clip, stating that he had been “misunderstood.”
He said he did not mean to suggest that nebulisers could replace oxygen cylinders, but he didn’t explain why he’d said that you could get oxygen from them.
The original video continues to be widely circulated and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi even used a screenshot from it in a recent address.
It was displayed while Mr Modi said that “many doctors are sharing information through social media, consulting through phone and WhatsApp”, although the audio was not used.
Herbal remedies don’t work and can be dangerous
India’s social media platforms have been inundated with messages suggesting various herbal home remedies for treating the symptoms of Covid-19, such as falling oxygen levels.
One widely shared “remedy” suggests a mix of camphor, clove, carom seeds and eucalyptus oil will be beneficial in maintaining oxygen levels while suffering from the virus.
There is no evidence that this can help people who are infected.
A video promoting this mixture, presented by a doctor of Indian traditional Ayurvedic medicine, has been shared on Facebook more than 23,000 times, as well as on WhatsApp.
In fact, camphor oil, widely used in skin creams and ointments, is potentially harmful if consumed internally.
The US Centers for Disease Control warns that camphor vapour inhalation could cause poisoning.
Lemons aren’t the answer either
A senior Indian politician and businessman recently claimed two drops of lemon juice in the nose can increase oxygen saturation levels.
Vijay Sankeshwar said he suggested it to his colleagues whose oxygen levels were low and “within half an hour, their oxygen levels rose from 88% to 96%”. He went on to say that 80% of India’s oxygen shortage could be solved by using this remedy.
There is no evidence, however, of this treatment having any effect on oxygen saturation levels in the blood.
And neither are “magic” deep breaths
India’s most popular yoga guru, Baba Ramdev, has been appearing on news channels and has videos on his YouTube channel which he claims show you how to increase oxygen levels at home.
In the video, he says “there’s a hue and cry about oxygen in the entire country, but I’ll show you magic”, while wearing a device to measure blood-oxygen levels on one of his fingers.
In the video, which has had more than 300,000 views on his YouTube channel, he demonstrates breathing exercises in which he holds his breath in the sitting position and shows his blood oxygen levels falling to well below the recommended safe level.
But then he says: “Take two deep breaths, you’ll get the oxygen (back into your blood), it’s there in abundance (in the environment).”
While practising yoga is generally good for your health, in cases where oxygen saturation levels fall because of a medical condition such as Covid-19, medical oxygen (which is nearly 100% pure oxygen) is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“If the oxygen levels are low, if they’re low for a long time, if it’s not treated, then the cells themselves stop to work well. Again, the life-saving treatment here then is medical oxygen,” says the WHO’s Dr Janet Diaz.