Oxygen therapy is a treatment that allows you to breathe in extra oxygen. This is also called supplemental oxygen. Some people may need oxygen therapy for a short amount of time, while others will need it for a longer period. You can only receive oxygen therapy with a prescription.
WHO NEEDS OXYGEN THERAPY?
Your health care provider may prescribe oxygen therapy for you if you have one of the following conditions that cause low blood oxygen in your system:
- COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
- Severe asthma attack
- Pulmonary fibrosis
- Cystic fibrosis
- Sleep apnea
- Late-stage heart failure
Suffering from low blood oxygen is damaging to your body. It can leave you worn out and short of breath. It can also affect your brain, making you feel confused.
WHAT SHOULD YOU KNOW BEFORE BEGINNING OXYGEN THERAPY?
Various options are available to those getting oxygen therapy at home. You can get oxygen stored in a pressurized tank, or you can use an oxygen concentrator. You breathe in the extra oxygen through nasal tubes or a face mask.
Oxygen therapy may have a few minor side effects, including tiredness, dry nose, bloody nose, and headaches. Otherwise, the extra oxygen helps you feel better and more energetic.
GETTING STARTED ON OXYGEN THERAPY
If you are starting oxygen therapy for the first time, you may feel overwhelmed by the new changes and equipment. Always remember that you are not alone. Your doctor, respiratory therapist, oxygen supplier, and your friends and family can all help make you feel more comfortable during this time.
Getting a Prescription
A prescription from your doctor is required to begin oxygen therapy. Discuss your lifestyle with your doctor, so you can come up with an oxygen therapy plan that works for you. Your plan will include finding an oxygen supplier to deliver your oxygen and equipment.
Using Oxygen at Home
When you use oxygen at home, remember to keep a backup oxygen tank in the case of a power outage. Inform your electric company, telephone company, and fire department that you use oxygen at home. This information may help you get power restored sooner after an outage. You should also inform neighbors, family, and friends that you are on oxygen therapy. If you have an emergency, you can call them for help.
You should not change the flow of your oxygen or stop taking oxygen unless recommended by your physician or therapist. If you think you are not getting the right amount of oxygen, contact your health care provider.
To decrease the likelihood of skin drying and cracking, keep your lips, mouth, and nose lubricated with a lotion or lubricant that is water-based, not oil-based. Aloe vera works well.
Using Oxygen Away From Home
A lightweight portable oxygen concentrator helps you be mobile and active while you are on oxygen therapy. Follow a few guidelines when using any type of portable oxygen:
- When traveling by airplane, tell the airline that you will be using oxygen on the flight. Follow FAA rules/guidelines regarding the amount of battery power permitted and proper storage.
- When traveling by cruise ship, bus, or train, you should let the company know that you are using oxygen. Follow their guidelines.
- When traveling by car, keep the windows open a crack for good air circulation. Do not leave your oxygen units in the hot car.
TIPS FOR USING OXYGEN SAFELY
Follow all safety guidelines carefully when using oxygen. Oxygen supports combustion, which means objects that are in your oxygen-rich environment will burn more easily.
- Keep your oxygen unit stored upright, not tipped over on its side.
- Keep your oxygen unit away from gas stoves or other open flames.
- Don’t store oxygen in a tight, enclosed space.
- Turn off your oxygen when you are not using it.
What NOT to Do Around Oxygen
- Do not use aerosol sprays near the oxygen unit.
- Do not smoke or allow other people to smoke around you.
- Do not use any electrical appliances while using oxygen.
How to Be Better Prepared
- Keep a fire extinguisher nearby.
- Make sure your smoke alarms are working properly.
- Keep a close eye on the gauges of your oxygen equipment, so you are always prepared with extra oxygen when you need it.