Life With Supplemental Oxygen Therapy

November 12, 2012

Life With Supplemental Oxygen Therapy

There are many medical reasons why your doctor will recommend supplemental oxygen therapy to help you breathe normally. You could be suffering from emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis, severe asthma, sleep apnea or cluster headaches. No matter what the reason, you will be keeping oxygen tanks in your home, by your bed and possibly carting them around with you wherever you go.

Supplemental oxygen tanks, devices and concentrators are not something you can pick up at the corner pharmacy. You must have a doctor’s prescription in order to purchase them.

Types of Devices

Supplemental oxygen therapy has three basic types of delivery systems:

  • Compressed oxygen gas: We’ve all seen this form of supplemental oxygen therapy on television dramas. The gas is stored in many different sizes of aluminum or steel cylinders. The aluminum cylinders are lighter to carry but are more easily punctured than steel. An air hose connects the oxygen to a face mask. Patients can sometimes sleep on their backs with the masks on.

  • Liquid oxygen: This is used to bring more oxygen into an entire room. This requires a lot of equipment and may be too expensive or cumbersome for the home. Liquid oxygen needs to be stored cold. When needed, the liquid oxygen is boiled and the steam releases more oxygen into the room.

  • Oxygen concentrators: This is an electric appliance that acts as s super-filter, removing other gasses and chemicals from oxygen in the room. Oxygen concentrators do not need to be refilled. There are small oxygen concentrators made to fit onto a patient’s belt, shirt pocket or backpack so that the patient can get supplemental oxygen while outside of the home. For people with sleep apnea, an oxygen concentrator can usually be attached to a continual positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.

Safety Tips

The American Lung Association recommends that anyone undergoing supplemental oxygen therapy follow these safety tips:

  • Keep oxygen tanks or devices away from anything that could set it on fire. Oxygen is highly flammable. Never smoke around oxygen tanks. Keep candles or lit matches away from the tanks.

  • Keep oxygen at least five feet away from anything that generates a lot of heat, such as a portable heater, stove, grill or a fireplace.

  • Never use any cosmetics containing petroleum, such as petroleum jelly. These products are flammable, especially in the presence of an oxygen container.

  • Always store cylinder-shaped oxygen tanks upright. Never lay them on their sides.

  • Always check that the oxygen valve is off when you are not using a mask to breathe in oxygen directly from the container.

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