Using Oxygen Safely
*Please note: This slide show is meant to be a representation only. No specific brand of oxygen equipment is being promoted or endorsed. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult your doctor about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
What is oxygen therapy?
If you have a lung problem such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or pulmonary fibrosis, you might have low oxygen levels.
If so, you may need extra oxygen, or oxygen therapy. Oxygen therapy is given using special equipment. This animation tells you about using oxygen safely.
Oxygen safety: Avoiding tripping
You receive extra oxygen through plastic tubing connected to an oxygen concentrator or tank. The tubing comes in different lengths.1 If it is very long, you may want to hold the extra tubing while moving around your home, get tubing that lies flat, or consider other ways to manage it. Avoid letting the tubing get stuck, which can stop the oxygen flow.
Oxygen safety: Keeping your concentrator in a well-ventilated area
An oxygen concentrator pulls air from the room around it and concentrates it into almost pure oxygen. Keep some space around your stationary oxygen concentrator so air can circulate around it. It should also be away from walls or furniture because it gives off heat. You may want to place it in a different room than you sleep in, so the warmth and noise do not bother you.1
Oxygen safety: First responders and utility companies
Let your local fire and police departments know there is supplemental oxygen in your home. This helps protect them and you in case of an emergency such as a fire. You can also place a sign on your door saying oxygen is in use.3
Make sure your smoke detectors work and you have at least one fire extinguisher in your home.4
You can ask your power company for a "priority service listing." They may restore your electricity earlier in an outage.4
Oxygen safety: Backup oxygen for emergencies
Having a backup source of oxygen is important in case of emergency. If you depend on a concentrator that plugs into the wall, your supplier should provide a backup oxygen system in case of a power outage.4
Carry extra portable oxygen concentrator batteries, a car charger, or extra oxygen tanks when you leave home, so you always have a backup oxygen supply.4
Oxygen safety: Important contact information
Keep the phone number for your oxygen supplier in a place that is easy to find. Make sure any caregivers know where it is.
Also keep other important numbers nearby, such as the number for your doctor’s office. Keep your phone charged and with you so you can get help quickly.
Oxygen safety: Traveling by car
In a car, place your oxygen in a secure place where it cannot tip over. You can use a seat belt to hold it in place.6
Never leave oxygen in a hot car or store it in the trunk. Keep a window open slightly while traveling to allow air to circulate. Do not smoke or ride with anyone who smokes.6
Oxygen safety: Traveling by plane
Before flying, check on your airline's rules for portable oxygen concentrators. Each airline is different. Contact them at least 48 hours before your flight.
You cannot use oxygen tanks on a plane. Your health care provider may need to fill out forms for you to use your concentrator. You also need enough backup batteries for your entire travel time, plus extra in case of delays.
Oxygen safety: Other types of travel
For travel by bus, train, or cruise ship, be sure to contact the ticket office well ahead of time to discuss any requirements. Be sure to bring your oxygen prescription with you.
Some companies offer cruises specifically for people who use oxygen.6
Oxygen safety: General tips
Avoid oil-based lip balms, makeup, and lotions. Products with oil or petroleum jelly are flammable. You can use aloe vera or another water-based moisturizer.3
Oxygen safety: Fire Prevention
Oxygen does not explode or burn by itself. But it does feed fires. Keep oxygen at least 6 feet away from open flames.5
Oxygen safety: Fire Prevention
Avoid anything that is burning or may spark, including cigarettes, pilot lights, barbecue grills, hairdryers, matches, and lighters.7 If you cook on a gas stove, move the cannula tubing so it goes down your back. Use the cool setting on a hair dryer.7
Oxygen safety: Storing oxygen
Keep the oxygen tank you are using stable.7 Do not let it roll around or bump into things. Ask your oxygen supply technician to show you how to store your tanks.
Keep tanks in a well-ventilated area.7 If they crack or the valve breaks off, they can be dangerous.7
It is a good idea to have signs around your home saying that oxygen is in use.7 Put them in obvious places.
- Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. Oxygen basics. Available at https://www.pulmonaryfibrosis.org/patients-caregivers/oxygen-therapy/what-is-oxygen-therapy. Accessed December 29, 2021.
- Face mask safety for people on home oxygen. Inogen. July 2, 2020. Available at https://www.inogen.com/blog/face-mask-safety-for-people-on-home-oxygen/. Accessed January 25, 2022.
- American Lung Association. Using oxygen at home. Available at https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-procedures-and-tests/oxygen-therapy/using-oxygen-at-home. Updated July 21, 2020. Accessed January 3, 2022.
- American Thoracic Society. Oxygen therapy. Available at https://www.thoracic.org/patients/patient-resources/oxygen-therapy.php. Accessed January 3, 2022.
- American Lung Association. Traveling with oxygen. Updated July 21, 2020. Available at https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-procedures-and-tests/oxygen-therapy/traveling-with-oxygen. Accessed January 11, 2022.
- American Association for Respiratory Care and Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. Why did my provider prescribe supplemental oxygen? August 2017. Available at https://pulmonaryfibrosis-legacy.ae-admin.com/life-with-pf/pff-educational-resources/patient-education-materials. Accessed January 4, 2022.
Slide Show - Using Oxygen Safely
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