Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber, Airplane Travel and Lyme Disease

A hyperbaric oxygen chamber is an alternative method I have read about that is sometimes used to help alleviate lyme disease symptoms. From How Stuff Works, "hyperbaric oxygen therapy uses a special chamber, sometimes called a pressure chamber, to allow a person to get high levels of oxygen in the blood. This means that the air inside the pressurized chamber is typically 2 1/2 times greater than normal atmospheric pressure. This leads to your blood carrying larger amounts of oxygen, and bringing this oxygen to organs and tissues in the body. By doing so, wounds, particularly infected wounds, can heal more readily." In terms of lyme disease, often people have a "herx," in which their symptoms are exacerbated following treatment. As the bacteria die off the immune system is aggravated and thus the symptoms worsen before they get better.

My theory is this...every time I was on an airplane in the last couple years I got very sick about 1 or 2 days after traveling. No matter where I was leaving from or going to, I got sick upon arrival. I traveled many times between Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Ireland and usually spent a day or two after arrival vomiting, headachy, and in bed with a very bad, painful, flu-like illness all over. I forever thought this was because I had a "weakened" immune system, and I assumed each time I traveled I had caught something on the plane. However, in retrospect, I had the same symptoms every time, and now knowing that I have lyme disease, I wonder if being on an airplane, with the cabin pressure changes when ascending and descending my lyme disease was somehow effected? Could it be that if it is correct that hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatment can effect the lyme spirochetes in one's system, that the pressure changes in an airplane's cabin could do the same?

It just seems odd to me that I never felt sick when traveling by car, or train or changing locations that didn't involve an airplane. I used to travel often by airplane before I was aware of any "lyme disease" in my life, and never got sick like that when I traveled. In fact, I often traveled for TV production which involved high amounts of stress, little sleep and long work days. I still didn't get sick like I have in the recent past. So, I'm just putting it out there that I feel like there could be some correlation between hyperbaric pressure chambers and how they cause lyme spirochetes to react in the body and airplane travel. Something to think about.


  1. Lyme was diagnosed early in 2006 (IGeneX). I fly often and each and every time I get real sick the very next day. I just couldn't figure out how I could "pick up something" in the airport/airplane every single flight. I have now found out that spirochetes love low air pressure/low oxygen. So, the day of travel I start antibiotics and take them for a few days to make sure the bugs don't have a chance to out-number me. I've also been told not to sleep in airplanes because I would be taking in even less oxygen.

    Now I'm battling Bartinella too. Lost my job because I couldn't work, can't get decent/affordable health insurance because of the Lyme dx.

    I guess I shouldn't complain because I do have a lot of good days and there are others with so much more serious illnesses; but, dadgumit I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired all the time.

    Just wanted to comment on your thoughts about Lyme and airplane travel. Wish someone had told me about this several years ago.

    Hope you're doing better.
    Cheryl - Southern California Grandma

    1. OMG.. this is a blessing that I am reading this. I have always believed that I have been infected with Lyme, and because I had a negative on a test, no one even wanted to consider it. I fell ill in 2007 after 2 solid weeks of flying, I thought I had encountered the worse case of the flu, however I never fully recovered. Unfortunately I do fly for a living, but I have not had to fly very often in recent years. I would like to get on disability, but need a diagnoses of sorts. I have been through so many doctors and do have an arthritic condition that eventually came forth, but I will not take the poisons they want to give me because I have always felt the arthritis was caused by something else. I had a few short flights this week and I have been hurting all over again, after starting to have some recovery. I have been taking nutra joint for the arthritis and it helps as much as any of the expensive meds I took. Now I need to find a Lyme literate doctor to help so I can get an official diagnoses..

    2. It's been almost 4 years since I posted my comments above. I have many very good days, but still cannot get on an airplane without ending up in bed the next day sick. My last flight in August was a short 1 hour flight from San Francisco (we drove there ) back home to Palm Springs. I spent the next 2 weeks in bed. These times are great for weight loss but that's all I can say that's positive. It seems that I am getting worse when it comes to being able to fly.

      I've just completed some new tests with my Lyme MD. I thought for sure I had Mycoplasma. Not the case, though, according to Medical Diagnostics Lab (MDL in New Jersey). That would certainly have accounted for getting so sick when flying.

      With no immune system, of course, the Epstein Barr Virus also showed up.

      With these new tests I finally have a positive Bartonella from Fry Labs in Arizona. We're not just guessing anymore.

      The big surprise was the Quest Diagnostics MTHFR C677t gene mutation result. Never even heard of it. Still researching all this means. My Lyme doc says that in all the years of her practice, she has maybe seen 5 Lyme patients that DID NOT have this gene mutation. Very interesting. I'll also ask her why she didn't run this test 10 years ago.

      It's right at 10 years since I was diagnosed with Lyme and Morgellons. I prefer to treat with herbs and that works well, except sometimes I have to go on a strict antibiotic regimen for a while. The Morgellons symptoms seem to respond well to Cipro and Rifampin has been added to lower this load.

      I've always felt my best when on the Salt/C protocol (using only Pink Himalayan Crystal Salt). It's a real pain to fill those capsules with salt so there are long periods of time that I'm not on it. The Salt/C protocol adds 24 more 1 gram capsules to my schedule a day!

      So, I guess my problem of being CDC-positive for 10 years is that there's so many Lyme bugs in all my tissues I just can't fly anymore. Some reading also indicates that Bartonella loves low oxygen, too.

      So, what's a girl to do?

      If anyone has new info, This 68 year old great grandmother sure would appreciate hearing it.

      Cheryl in the Desert

  2. I truley believe that my onset of Lyme symptoms were brought about when i flew. I was bitten in 2002 and then flew in 2007 for the first time and right after we landed i was dizzy, disoriented, and sick for a few days. once we came home it was even worse. I was blacking out when i stood up couldnt see, dizzy, sweating, aching, trouble walking. Its been hell since.

  3. Thank you Michelle and Cheryl for these validating and helpful comments. It's nice to know others have had the same experience! Cheryl - it would make sense that lower oxygen would allow the bacteria to grow, because when you are in a hyperbaric chamber the higher oxygen kills them off. No wonder I got SO sick every time I flew. I knew this was happening, but like everything else with lyme, which many doctors don't seem to want to validate, I had to figure it out myself! I wish you both the best. p.s. - I haven't flown for 2 years!

  4. The Borellia bacteria implicated in lyme are microaerophile. From Wiki-A microaerophile is a microorganism that requires oxygen to survive, but requires environments containing lower levels of oxygen than are present in the atmosphere (i.e. <21% O2; typically 2-10% O2).[1][2] Many microaerophiles are also capnophiles, requiring an elevated concentration of carbon dioxide (e.g. 10% CO2 in the case of Campylobacter spp.).[3]

    The cabin pressure in an airplane at cruise altitude of 36,000 is maintained at an equivalent altitude of 6000-8000 feet so air pressure drops from 14.7 pounds/square inch at sea level to about 11 pounds/square inch at cruise altitude. Oxygen saturation is thus likely lowered somewhat in the body which could cause a proliferation of Borellia. Hyperbaric chamber treatment is being reported as helpful in treating lyme by killing the Borellia with high oxygen levels.

    I know with Morgellons, which is also associated with Borellia, that putting heavy vaseline on a lesion tends to bring the infectious particles to the surface, presumably by cutting off their oxygen. Using heavy ointment such as zinc oxide cream tends to bring the particles to the surface and kill them as does the iron oxide pigment in some makeup. That's my interpretation of my own condition if I'm in fact interpreting it correctly.

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