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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.

10 tips on using oxygen for 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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Petty, Thomas, Robert W. McCoy, Dennis E. Doherty, “Long Term Oxygen Therapy (LTOT): History, Scientific Foundations, And Emerging Technologies,” 6th Oxygen Concensus Conference Recommendations, National Lung Health Education Program, 2006, http://www.nlhep.org/Documents/lt_oxygen.pdf, accessed 9/20/18
  2. COPD Guidelines,” 2018, Global Innitiative For Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (GOLD), https://goldcopd.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/GOLD-2018-v6.0-FINAL-revised-20-Nov_WMS.pdf, accessed 9/28/18
  3. “Using Oxygen Safely,” American Lung Association, https://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-procedures-and-tests/oxygen-therapy/using-oxygen-safely.html, accessed 8/4/19“Oxygen Concentrator Tubing - - Adult (no humidification), University of Michigan, http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/Homecare/MedEQUIP/OxygenConcentratorAssembly-Adult-no-humidifcation.pdf, accessed 8/4/19
  4. Aguiar, et al., “Tubing Length For Long-Term Oxygen Therapy,” Respiratory Care, 2015, http://rc.rcjournal.com/content/60/2/179, accessed 8/2/19

Comments

  • Karen721
    3 days ago

    I am not on Facebookbut would like to know of any other support groups. I am already a member of Better Breathers. Thank you!

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    3 days ago

    Hi Karen721, and thanks for your post. In addition to what my colleague, Lyn, shared with you – some folks consider both our COPD.net page AND our COPD Facebook pages to be a support group. Have you accessed us on Facebook yet?
    Leon (site moderator)

  • Lyn Harper, RRT moderator
    3 days ago

    Hi Karen721 – That’s great that you’re part of a Better Breathers club. That’s an incredible resouce for people with chronic lung problems.
    A couple of ways you might find local support groups are through the American Lung Association, your local hospital, or your doctors office may know of some.
    Otherwise, you might want to just try an internet search using your zip code.
    In the meantime, I hope you find this site to be very helpful and supportive.
    Best – Lyn (site moderator)

  • nordienordstrum
    4 days ago

    Beverly, I am wondering if you have been evaluated for sleep apnea and wonder if you might need the push of a c-pap machine to keep your O2 saturation up. My nightime saturation level was dropping too low with just a gravity flow from a room concentrator . I required adding the force of a cpap machine. You might need to investigate your nightime breathing with a sleep study ?

  • BeverlyDeMarco
    6 days ago

    I AM ON OXYGEN 24/7 AT FIRST IT WAS ONLY AT NIGHT BUT THAN DEPENDENT ON IT AND STARTED IT FULL TIME.. I ALSO HAVE A PORTABLE TO USE GOING TO THE DR.APPOINTMENTS AND OTHER PLACES, IT WILL LAST 3HOURS SO ITS A BIG HELP TO ME WHEN I HAVE AN APPOINTMENT. I HAVE A HARD TIME BREATHING WHEN I GET UP IN THE MORNING AFTER A GOOD NIGHT SLEEP? DONT KNOW WHY THAT HAPPENS WHEN I HAVE THE OXYGEN ON ALL NIGHT? I GET ON THE NUEBULIZER AS SOON AS I GET UP AND THAT HELPS ME ALOT TO GET MORE AIR INTO MY LUNGS. I ONLY HAVE 28% OF MY LUNGS WORKING SO I HAVE TO BE VERY PATIENT AND DO A LOT OF PURSE LIP BREATHING TO GET ME CALM DOWN AND BREATH NORMAL. I GO TO REHAB THREE DAYS A WEEK BECAUSE THE EXERCISEING HELP ME SO MUCH , THATS ABOUT THE ONLY THING I CAN DO ANYMORE SO IT GETS ME OUT OF MY HOUSE AND GET TO MEET OTHER PEOPLE AT THE REHAB TOO.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    6 days ago

    Hi Beverly, and thanks for joining in responding to John’s excellent article tips for using oxygen at home. We appreciate you sharing your routine and viewpoint when it comes to using supplemental oxygen therapy. I remember how you anticipated going to pulmonary rehabilitation (from your previous postings). Glad to hear you are enrolled and using it three times a week. Keep up the good work! Warmly, Leon (site moderator)

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