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What happens if you breathe pure oxygen?

We cannot live without oxygen. But too much can hurt us. Let’s find out why.

By burning the food we eat, our bodies make the energy we need to run around, play, and study. Think of this as burning a candle. To burn food, you need the oxygen that comes from breathing in the surrounding air.

Oxygen is not the only gas in the air. In fact, air is mainly made of nitrogen. This has a very important task. Nitrogen slows down the burning process, so you can get enough energy little by little throughout the day.

When you breathe pure oxygen, the energy from food is released at once. So forget about the candles. This is like a fireworks explosion. Van! If you breathe pure oxygen, it will not actually explode. But you will hurt your body.

Breathing pure oxygen initiates a series of runaway chemical reactions. At that time, a part of the oxygen turns into a dangerous and unstable place called “radical”. Oxygen radicals harm fats, proteins, and DNA in the body. This can damage your eyes and lungs and prevent you from breathing normally.

Therefore, breathing pure oxygen is very dangerous.

However, you may need to breathe pure oxygen. Astronauts and deep-sea scuba divers work in extremely dangerous places and may breathe pure oxygen.

The length of time you breathe pure oxygen, and the amount you breathe, are carefully controlled to avoid harm.

Sick people, including premature babies in hospital and hospitalized people with the coronavirus, may also need breathing help. They may be given a little extra oxygen over what is in the air. It acts like a drug that calms and helps calm their breathing.

Again, too much oxygen is dangerous. That’s why doctors and nurses take care to ensure that people get the right amount they need.

So you need oxygen to help get energy from food. If you’re sick in the hospital, or if you’re an astronaut or a deep-sea diver, you may need a little extra. However, too much oxygen can be harmful to us.


Hello, curious children! Do you have a question that you would like an expert to answer?Ask an adult to ask a question [email protected]

Mark Lynch, Chemistry Lecturer, University of Southern Queensland

This article has been republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Please read the original article.

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