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An ear wearing foam on top of cannula tubing, a nose with a nasal cannula, a finger with a blood oxygen monitor and an oxygen canister

Some Ins and Outs of Using Supplemental Oxygen

A person with a normal breathing function will have a blood oxygen content of 98 to 100, depending on their fitness and exercise regime. As I’ve been told by my doctors, when you have COPD, the doctors would like your oxygen saturation levels to be between 88 and 92. This prevents you from retaining excess 02 that will turn into carbon dioxide. Have a frank talk with your 02 supplier to be sure that you have the proper cannulas and the proper canisters that will match your necessary 02 flow. Also, asking for the proper pull carts for your canisters makes travel so much easier, especially if you are not using a walker.

Oxygen use information, tips, and equipment overview


There are two main tests to determine if supplemental 02 will help your shortness of breath. The first is a non-invasive method of using an Oximeter on your finger. Many of us have these and use them at home on a regular basis. It can read how much oxygen is in your blood. The second is an Arterial Blood Gas (ABG). This test is used to determine if the oxygen in your blood is low. Another method of testing is a 6-minute walk test while having your 02 monitored.

Using a window sign

Those us who are using supplemental oxygen should have been given a cardboard sign to put in the front door or window. Its purpose is to let the Fire Department know that we have both a concentrator and canisters of 02. Your oxygen alone will not start a fire, but if there is a fire and your canisters are exposed to it, they could provide fuel for the fire.

Types of oxygen

There are liquid oxygen and regular condensed 02 along with pulse and continuous flow oxygen. Finding what works best for you depends on how much 02 you require and how long you a canister will last you. Canister sizes will vary depending on your rate and the type of 02 you use.

Swivel connectors

Getting all caught up in tubing is what my life is about these days. Having one 50 continuous cord helps to keep the kinks out provided I have it connected to my cannulas with a swivel connector

Foam for your ears

Wearing cannulas on a regular basis can sometimes make your ears burn. This is an irritation from the plastic and the area behind your ears becomes irritated. Ask your provider for the foam piece that covers your tubing to prevent irritation behind your ear.

Using longer tubing

With the swivel connectors, I can add additional tubing that allows me to walk around my property without having to carry a canister. Few people will understand the freedom of walking out the door without having to carry an extra canister.

Please keep in mind: oxygen tubing goes into the trash when you are finished with them and they are not recyclable.

Tubing changes

Your 02 provider should supply the tubing and it should be changed monthly. Nasal cannulas should be changed at least weekly and more often if you have a cold.

Nasal gel

Using oxygen on a regular basis can make your nasal cavity dry and cause nasal sores. Use a proper nasal gel designed especially for those that use supplemental 02. Nasal gels should not contain and oil products or petroleum.

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


  • Lucca
    5 months ago

    Can cannulas be cleaned with vinegar and water like nebulizer mouthpieces?

  • Barbara Moore moderator author
    5 months ago

    Lucca, These are one use products. They are inexpensive and there is no need to wash them, they should be supplied as necessary. I change mine once a week unless I am sick, then I change them every day. Barbara Moore (site moderator author)

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    5 months ago

    Hi Lucca, and thanks for your excellent question. In general, nasal cannulas are considered to be for ‘single patient use’, which means use a cannula for one person – it is not to be shared. That may seem obvious, but you would be surprised what can go on in the patient arena. Having said that, disposable nasal cannulas should not be cleaned. If they become soiled, they should be discarded. That is typically the view of the manufacturers of these devices. They are inexpensive enough that should they need to be replaced, your equipment supplier should have no issues leaving several in your household for you to use as necessary. I hope this answers your question. Wishing you well, Leon (site moderator)

  • Mendo Bruce
    5 months ago

    Doesn’t anybody edit these things for misinformation?

    So much wrong here I can’t begin to list.

    Normal O2 is 95-100 (There is no 103) Trapped O2 does not turn into poisonous CO2. CO2 is exchanged from the blood. etc, etc, etc,

  • Megan
    5 months ago

    Mendo Bruce, you sure said a mouth full. A 103 oxygen level….98-103. According to all the medical books, and medical school articles it’s 94…not strange for a healthy normal to even be 93. Most, all of these articles are dated, wrong. I have never read a hopeful one on this site. That’s really sad. Many inaccuracies. Fact checking is paramount when writing a article. Not do do so can cause people to be frightened.

  • Alesandra Bevilacqua moderator
    5 months ago

    Hi @mendobruce & @megan – thank you both for bringing this to our attention. We’ve adjusted the article to reflect accurate information about oxygen levels. This article represents the experiences of the author, and we worked to make that more clear for the readers. We appreciate you looking into this for us and thank you for being part of our community here at – Alesandra ( Team)

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    5 months ago

    Hi Mendo Bruce, and thanks for pointing this out. Your comment has been brought to the attention of the senior site team. We appreciate your input.
    All the best,
    Leon (site moderator)

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