What is oxygen? Oxygen is a drug and must be prescribed by your physician. Oxygen is gas at room temperature that is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. When we breath we use the roughly 21% oxygen in the air to sustain our lives. Our bodies get energy from a combination of the food we eat plus oxygen from the air we breathe. The energy created from food and oxygen enables us to use our muscles to breathe, perform work, and carry out all bodily functions.
Why do I need Oxygen? If you have ever experienced difficulty breathing, or if you have lung or heart problems, you have probably wondered about using oxygen at home. A heart weakened by disease may not be able to pump as much oxygen carrying blood and a lung disease may diminish your body’s ability to pass oxygen into your bloodstream. Your doctor has prescribed oxygen for you based on laboratory tests that measure the level of oxygen in your blood, a physical examination, and or an assessment of your symptoms, that the use of oxygen in the home will be a benefit to you. Without oxygen you might experience fatigue, diminished ability for activities, memory loss, moments of confusion, or breathing difficulties.
Does oxygen therapy treat the diseases of the heart or lungs causing low oxygen levels? While oxygen therapy relieves many of the adverse symptoms associated with low oxygen levels, much of the damage caused by heart disease or lung diseases like emphysema are irreversible. Presently, there are an estimated 4 million people with heart and lung problems that benefit or could benefit from oxygen therapy, while an estimated 50 million Americans are affected by heart and lung diseases.
What benefits will I see while using oxygen therapy? Once your begin your home oxygen therapy you can look forward to sleeping better, remember things better, being less irritable, feel more energetic, and suffer fewer depressions. Your ability to endure more exercise will increase and you typically spend less time hospitalized. You will be able to lead a happier and more productive life.
Am I getting enough oxygen? Can I get too much? The only way to know that you are getting the correct amount of oxygen is to check the oxygen level in your blood while using oxygen therapy. Too much oxygen can be as dangerous as not receiving enough, and for that reason, you should stick to the prescribed amount. If you do develop new symptoms, such as increased sleepiness, confusion, headaches, etc., you might be getting too much oxygen, and you should notify your physician. Do not change the liter flow or hours of usage without first checking with your doctor.
Can I have an addiction to oxygen? No, oxygen is not addicting. If your doctor determines that your capability to properly oxygenate yourself without oxygen has improved, you may no longer require supplemental oxygen.
Will I always have to use oxygen? Your doctor will determine how much oxygen you should receive and for how many hours each day. For the maximum benefit be sure to follow your doctor’s order exactly.
How does oxygen get delivered to my home? Three different methods, concentrator, compressed gas, or liquid can deliver oxygen to you. An oxygen concentrator sends your own room air through a filter that traps all but the oxygen. High concentrations of pure oxygen are then safely delivered to the patient. Portable aluminum cylinders are filled with compressed oxygen for use as needed. A liquid oxygen system stores frozen liquid oxygen in your home, which requires you to continuously make arrangements to have the frozen liquid oxygen carefully replaced by technicians. As Liquid oxygen or cold gas will freeze tissues and can cause severe cryogenic (extremely low temperature) burns, a number of safety precautions must be used if attempting to use a liquid oxygen system.
How does Oxygen get delivered to my body? Oxygen is most commonly delivered to you via tubing called a nasal cannula. This cannula is placed under your nose and over your ears. Additional tubing of up to 50 feet may be added for mobility within your home.
Is it hard to get around with portable tanks? No, portable tanks weigh from 5 to 15 pounds and are carried with in a shoulder bag or fanny pack, larger tanks are may be pulled in a cart.
Can my portable tanks be refilled by me? Yes, there are two types of portable systems available, compressed gas cylinder and frozen liquid ‘thermos’ systems. Tech savvy companies utilize a safe, specially designed system with cylinders specifically designed to be refilled by the patient in a safe and easy to operate fashion. Great care must be taken when attempting to refill a personal liquid system so as not to cause any cryogenic burns that may occur with the frozen liquid. In addition, each liquid system requires continuous re-supply of the frozen liquid oxygen. Liquid technology was cutting edge in the 1970’s.
What could happen if I smoke while using oxygen? DO NOT SMOKE WHILE USING OXYGEN! While oxygen does not burn, it does accelerate combustion. It is possible to ignite a flame and burn your cannula and your face by smoking and using oxygen. Do not allow smokers within 5 feet of you if your are using oxygen.
What do I need to do to service my concentrator? Concentrators require very little maintenance by the patient. Both of the gross particle filters should be cleaned weekly. Remove the filters rinse in warm water, press the excess moisture out with an absorbent towel. Place your back-up filters in the concentrator and save your washed filters for next week. If using a humidifier follow the cleaning and disinfecting procedures for humidifiers.
Are portable concentrators a viable alternative to home stationary concentrators? Portable concentrators have made tremendous jumps in reliability and longevity in the past few years. Presently there are at least two portable concentrators capable of 3 liter continuous flow at 18 pounds or less. And there are at least four portable concentrators offering non-continuous flow at 10 lbs or under. By cycling operation times and using conserving modes these portable concentrators have achieved the same projected life of 25,000 hours or more and stationary concentrators of just a few years ago.