10 Tips For Using Home Oxygen
All people need oxygen to survive. Most people get plenty of oxygen from the air around us. But some people need more oxygen than what’s in room air. This causes the need for home oxygen therapy.
Best practices for using home oxygen with COPD
1. Oxygen for COPD requires a prescription
The air around us is called room air. It contains 21% oxygen. This is usually plenty of oxygen for people with healthy lungs. Some people with diseased lungs need more than 21%. This can be supplied with supplemental oxygen, or home oxygen therapy. Your doctor can order tests to see if you qualify for home oxygen therapy. If you qualify, your doctor must write a prescription. The prescription tells your oxygen supplier exactly what you need and how often to use it.
2. Oxygen should be used exactly as prescribed
Supplemental oxygen is considered a drug. As with any drug, there are potential side effects. Thankfully, most people with COPD only need low oxygen flows. They usually can get by with 2-3 liters per minute (LPM).1-2 Your doctor will determine what liter flow is ideal for you. Sometimes, higher flows can be harmful to people with COPD. So, for this reason, it’s very important not to exceed your prescribed liter flow without first consulting your doctor.
3. Avoid open flames when using oxygen
Oxygen is not flammable. However, it can make a flame burn bigger and brighter. So, it is very important you keep it away from open flames. This includes cigarettes lighters, candles, cigarettes, stovetops, and fireplaces. Keep oxygen equipment away from anything that is hot or might initiate a spark.
4. Make sure oxygen tubing is clean
Oxygen tubing doesn’t require much maintenance. However, since it’s connected to you, germs can and do accumulate inside it over time. So, the University of Michigan recommends replacing it every 3-6 months.4
5. Replace the nasal cannula every two weeks
This is the part that is inserted into your nostrils. It’s the part that is most likely to become contaminated. The University of Michigan recommends switching it out with a new one every two weeks.4
6. Take care of your oxygen concentrator
Most people requiring home oxygen therapy are given a stationary oxygen concentrator. These are devices that draw in room air. They then separate oxygen molecules. They concentrate these molecules. This creates about 95% oxygen. They are operated by electricity. They are nice for use in homes. They can last a long time. But, they do require some maintenance. They need to be cleaned on the outside. Their filters need to be properly maintained. Your oxygen provider should give you simple directions on how to do this.
7. Utilize portable oxygen
Most experts highly recommend people with COPD stay active. Many studies have shown enormous benefits from staying active. And this is especially true if you have a chronic lung disease. There are a couple of different ways to stay active despite needing supplemental oxygen.
E-tanks are the smaller tanks. They can be set on small oxygen carts. These can be easily lugged around. D-tanks are even smaller. They can be placed in oxygen cylinder shoulder bags. This makes it easy to carry them. Portable oxygen concentrators are another option. They are easy to carry with you wherever you want to go.
8. Plan your outings when using oxygen
Portable oxygen allows you to leave your home. This is nice for running errands. It’s nice for visiting with friends and family. Still, it’s a good idea to plan ahead. It’s good to know how long your oxygen will last. A full e-tank at 2LPM can last up to 4.5 hours. A full d-tank can last almost 3 hours. Portable oxygen concentrators can last longer. But, their batteries only last so long. You should know exactly how long your portable equipment will supply oxygen. Your oxygen supplier should be able to show you how to do this.
9. Have a backup plan for oxygen use
Most people needing home oxygen use oxygen concentrators. They require electricity. What will you do if the electricity goes out? This is something your oxygen provider should help you prepare for. You will probably be given some spare e-tanks. You may also be given some tanks that are larger. These tanks will continue to supply you with oxygen even if the electricity goes out. They should be kept in a convenient location. They should be someplace easy to find and access in the dark. Still, they will only supply oxygen for so long. Your oxygen provider can show you how to determine how long they will supply you with oxygen, and when to switch tanks.
10. Limit oxygen tubing length
Longer tubing is nice in that it allows you to move around more freely. Still, a standard recommendation is that tubing not exceed 50 feet. This is why the longest tubing available is 50 feet. This is to assure you are always getting the recommended liter flow. Actually, a new study showed tubing up to 100 feet is safe.4 So, 100 feet may be a recommendation coming up soon. You'll just have to make sure it doesn't get tangled.
Do you have questions about your COPD diagnosis?