Facial hair poses burn risk for home oxygen therapy users: study

Rochester, MN – Facial hair increases the risk of burns for people who use home oxygen tanks, suggests a new study from the Mayo Clinic.

Researchers compared mannequins with mustaches made of human hair and mannequins without facial hair. All mannequins were fitted with nasal tubes, and oxygen flow was set at 2 liters per minute – similar to the level used in home oxygen therapy.

When the mannequins were exposed to a spark source (an electric grinder), the oxygen tubes and mustaches of the mannequins with facial hair ignited. The oxygen tubes of the mannequins without mustaches did not ignite.

Potential sources of ignition could include matches and cigarettes. The researchers advised people who use home oxygen therapy to reduce their risk of burns by shaving facial hair, using water-based hair gels instead of those containing alcohol or oil, using humidified oxygen, and avoiding sparks and flames.

The study was published online June 22 in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.