Looks at high-flow oxygen inhalation therapy for cluster headaches. Includes how it works, why it is used, and how well it works. Warns about the possible increase in risk of fire if oxygen is used near an open flame.
High-Flow Oxygen Inhalation Therapy for Cluster Headaches
100% oxygen inhaled through a face
How It Works
Oxygen is given at a high flow rate of 6
to 7 liters a minute for 10 to 20 minutes at the start of a
Why It Is Used
High-flow oxygen inhalation therapy
is used to treat cluster headaches. If headache pain is not relieved within 20
minutes, oxygen therapy should be stopped.
therapy does not prevent a cluster headache. It only provides temporary relief
of headache pain.
How Well It Works
Oxygen therapy is one of the best treatments to stop a cluster headache. Oxygen therapy relieves headache pain within 15 minutes in more than 7 out of 10 people who use it. It works best when started right when a cluster headache starts.1
In general, there are no adverse effects from oxygen treatment. But oxygen is a fire hazard. It is important to follow safety measures to keep you and your family safe. Do not use oxygen around lit cigarettes, open flames, or flammable substances.
Your doctor will set the flow rate per minute to give you the right amount of oxygen. Don't change the flow rate unless your doctor tells you to.
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
The major drawback of this
therapy is that you must have continuous access to an oxygen tank because you
usually don't know when a cluster headache will occur. It may be inconvenient
to keep oxygen on hand all the time. Medicines may be easier to use
when headaches occur at times when you are not at home.
oxygen can be combined with cluster headache medicines (such as sumatriptan)
for the most effective treatment. Oxygen also may be combined with preventive
medicines to reduce how often you get headaches.
Do not use oxygen around lit cigarettes, open flames, or flammable products. If you or those around you smoke, be sure to consider oxygen therapy very carefully because of the danger of fire or explosion.
For information on safety, hygiene, and travel, see:
Cohen AS, et al. (2009). High-flow oxygen for treatment of cluster headache: A randomized trial. JAMA, 302(22): 2451–2457.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.