Does Canned Oxygen Help Altitude Sickness?

Does Canned Oxygen Help Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness is a scary thing to happen while you're on vacation. You're all set, bags are packed and ready to go, but the altitude sickness that comes with your arrival can be terrifying.

Outside of altitude adjustment supplements and high altitude pills, one of the other most marketed ways to treat altitude sickness is using oxygen canisters. However, the effectiveness of using bottled oxygen is still a point of discussion for many people. While some swear by it, some say that it doesn't work at all. The following guide will help you understand does canned oxygen help altitude sickness as well as address the common misconceptions associated with it.

What is altitude sickness?

Altitude sickness, which is more accurately called acute mountain sickness (AMS), is an illness that can affect mountain climbers, hikers, skiers, or travelers at high elevation. It most commonly occurs at altitudes above 8,000 feet (2,400 meters) due to lower oxygen levels called hypoxia.

Supplemental Oxygen versus Canned Oxygen

Many people think that supplemental oxygen is the same thing as canned oxygen. It's not.

Supplemental oxygen or oxygen tanks are a medical treatment for people whose breathing is impaired due to illness or injury. Canned oxygen is purified air that contains a higher-than-normal concentration of oxygen.

You may also wonder do oxygen bars work for altitude sickness? Oxygen bars are considered more of a supplemental oxygen using an oxygen tank and face mask, than it is like canned oxygen.

How Does Canned Oxygen Work?

Canned oxygen is typically found in an aerosol form, which means it's sprayed from the canister instead of inhaled from a tube. It is typically pure ambient oxygen up that 95% that has been pressurized, and the spray gives users a direct shot of oxygen into their bodies.

When Should You Use Canned Oxygen?

When you travel to high altitudes they say keeping some canned oxygen on hand in case they're faced with altitude sickness. And using the canned oxygen periodically during your high altitude trip.

However, experts say that using canned oxygen shouldn't be the first option. Instead, they suggest acclimatizing by resting or sleeping at lower altitudes if possible or taking it easy when making the ascent (if traveling by foot). As an alternative to canned oxygen, for extreme hikes and climbing people choose to use supplement oxygen with a face mask and tank that deliver continuous oxygen.

Does Canned Oxygen Help Altitude Sickness?

Many athletes and hikers swear by it, but does canned oxygen really help with altitude sickness? Can it prevent altitude sickness?

Oxygen deprivation can cause a variety of symptoms, including shortness of breath, headache fatigue, confusion, dizziness and even unconsciousness. These are the signs of altitude sickness.

The air we breathe contains only 21% oxygen — and that's at sea level. As you climb higher up a mountain, the air pressure drops and so does the amount of oxygen in each breath.

Canned oxygen is marketed as a way to relieve altitude sickness by providing more oxygen when you're not able to breath it in from the atmosphere.

  • One study on Boost Oxygen, which is canned oxygen, as a pre-workout showed improvements in VO2 kinetics (volume of oxygen used during workouts) and a reduction of an oxygen deficit.²

  • Another study at the Center for Sleep and Respiratory Neurobiology showed that supplemental oxygen has a notable effect on physiological markers at high altitude.¹

Although these findings show supplemental oxygen and oxygen tanks can be effective altitude sickness prevention, it's still unclear if a small canned oxygen does the same trick. Evidence shows it can help aerobic exercise, but the science is still out if canned oxygen can help altitude sickness.

There are many anecdotal stories of people using supplemental oxygen to help with altitude sickness, but there's no definitive research that shows how well it works. That means you'll have to make up your own mind about whether canned oxygen is worth bringing along.

Top-Rated Pick for Altitude

Altitude Adjustment Supplement versus Canned Oxygen
Science has shown that glutathione can decrease as much as 45% from high altitude.³ Zaca chewables can help with altitude by replenishing glutathione levels and supporting healthy hydration. Zaca chewables give you three powerful antioxidants — glutathione, japanese raisin and prickly pear — to help you feel better faster. Try zaca chewables today, and get back to enjoying high-altitude activities like hiking and skiing.


1. Supplemental oxygen and hyperbaric treatment at high altitude: cardiac and respiratory response
2. Physiological Effects of Supplemental Concentrated Oxygen in VO2 Kinetics During Steady-State Exercise
3. Effect of high altitude (7,620 m) exposure on glutathione