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Helium plus oxygen (heliox)

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Many children are given oxygen to help with their breathing if they are in hospital with brochiolitis. Researchers have also explored using a mixture of helium and oxygen, which is called heliox. Helium is lighter than air, which may help the oxygen move more easily through the airways. This treatment is sometimes given to people with other lung conditions, such as asthma. However, not much research has explored its use in bronchiolitis.

One summary of the research (a systematic review) found four studies with a total of 84 children under age 2. [48] Compared with children having standard oxygen treatment, those given heliox had less breathing difficulty within the first hour of treatment. However, there was no difference between the groups in other areas, such as how long they needed to stay in intensive care or whether they needed to use a ventilator.

Another study also found that children given heliox together with a bronchodilator (treatment to open up the airways) improved a bit more quickly than children given oxygen with a bronchodilator. [49]However, a third study found that the mixture of helium and oxygen was no more effective than standard oxygen treatment for bronchiolitis. [50] We need more research to know whether this treatment is helpful and should be widely used.

The studies didn't report any harmful effects from heliox.


systematic reviews

A systematic review is a thorough look through published research on a particular topic. Only studies that have been carried out to a high standard are included. A systematic review may or may not include a meta-analysis, which is when the results from individual studies are put together.

For more terms related to Bronchiolitis


For references related to Bronchiolitis click here.
Last Updated: September 14, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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