More and more people are using oxygen therapy outside the hospital, permitting them to lead active, productive lives. People with asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, occupational lung disease, lung cancer, cystic fibrosis, or congestive heart failure may use oxygen therapy at home.
What is Oxygen Therapy?
Supplemental Oxygen Therapy has been prescribed to increase the level of oxygen in your blood. Oxygen Therapy may be prescribed for short term or long term use, depending on each patients needs. Oxygen therapy is used to normalize the oxygen level in your blood during sleep, rest, activities carried out during the day, and in hospitals and clinics.
Why is Oxygen Therapy Prescribed?
Specific tests are used to measure the level of oxygen in your blood, and supplemental oxygen is then used to increase your oxygen to an acceptable level that your body requires. Oxygen Therapy may only be needed while sleeping, or while exercising, and others need oxygen continuously. When a prescription for oxygen is prescribed it will say when to use it, and how much your body requires. Your physician will order a blood test that will indicate what your oxygen level is, and help determine what your needs are.
What are the Benefits of Oxygen Therapy:
Oxygen Therapy can assist in the growth and development in children and adults suffering from chronic lung conditions. Oxygen decreases shortness of breath when you are active, and allows you to do more.
Sources of Home Oxygen:
There are three common ways of providing oxygen therapy. Oxygen can be delivered to your home in the form of a gas in various-sized cylinders or as a liquid in a vessel. The third way to provide oxygen therapy is by using an oxygen concentrator. Each method is examined in more detail below.
Compressed Gas - Oxygen is stored under pressure in a cylinder equipped with a regulator that controls the flow rate. Because the flow of oxygen out of the cylinder is constant, an oxygen-conserving device may be attached to the system to avoid waste. This device releases the gas only when you inhale and cuts it off when you exhale. Oxygen can be provided in a small cylinder that can be carried with you, but the large tanks are heavy and are only suitable for stationary use.
Oxygen Concentrator - This is an electrically powered device that separates the oxygen out of the air, concentrates it, and stores it. This system has a number of advantages because it does not have to be re-supplied and it is not as costly as liquid oxygen. Extra tubing permits the user to move around with minimal difficulty. Small, portable systems have been developed that afford even greater mobility. It is recommended that you must have a cylinder of oxygen as a backup in the event of a power failure. You should advise your electric power company in order to get priority service when there is a power failure.
Oxygen Conserving Devices - An oxygen conserver is a device that delivers oxygen to the patient only on inhalation rather than continuous flow, as through conventional oxygen delivery. This provides advantages to the patient in allowing them to carry smaller tanks that last longer. It also eliminates the need for an E cylinder and cart for most people on oxygen therapy, excluding the most oxygen-dependent patients, while at the same time reducing the provider's cost in oxygen refilling and home delivery.
Nebulizer - is a device used to change liquid medication to an aerosol particle form. The aerosolized medication is extremely beneficial when inhaled and deposited in your lungs. Its effects are almost immediate in reversing bronchospasm.
The "neb" consists of a medication cup , a "tee" piece , a mouthpiece and tubing. Once assembled it can be used for aerosol therapy. Nebulizers need a secondary source, a compressor, to help breakdown the liquid to particle form. The compressor powers the nebulizer with a source of gas air to move the liquid medication against a baffle in the cup. This is often confused, a compressor is needed in addition to a nebulizer for aerosol therapy. You may see them referred to as "Compressor nebulizer".
Oxygen Delivery Devices:
There are three common means of oxygen delivery. Each device is examined in detail below.
A nasal cannula is a two-pronged device inserted in the nostrils that is connected to tubing carrying the oxygen. The tubing can rest on the ears or be attached to the frame of eyeglasses.
People who need a high flow of oxygen generally use a mask . Some people who use a nasal cannula during the day prefer a mask at night or when their noses are irritated or clogged by a cold.
Transtracheal oxygen therapy requires the insertion of a small flexible catheter in the trachea or windpipe. The transtracheal catheter is held in place by a necklace. Since transtracheal oxygen bypasses the mouth, nose, and throat, a humidifier is required at flow rates of 1 LPM or greater.
You should never smoke while using oxygen. Warn visitors not to smoke near you when you are using oxygen. Put up no-smoking signs in your home where you most often use the oxygen. When you go to a restaurant with your portable oxygen source, ask to be seated in the non-smoking section. Stay at least five feet away from gas stoves, candles, lighted fireplaces, or other heat sources. Do not use any flammable products like cleaning fluid, paint thinner, or aerosol sprays while using your oxygen.
If you use an oxygen cylinder, make sure it is secured to some fixed object or in a stand. If you use liquid oxygen, make sure the vessel is kept upright to keep the oxygen from pouring out; the liquid oxygen is so cold it can hurt your skin. Keep a fire extinguisher close by, and let your fire department know that you have oxygen in your home. If you use an oxygen concentrator, notify your electric company so you will be given priority if there is a power failure. Also, avoid using extension cords if possible.
Care of Equipment:
The home medical equipment and services company that provides the oxygen therapy equipment you use should provide you with instructions on user care and maintenance of your particular equipment. Here are some general guidelines for your cleaning procedures. You should wash your nasal prongs with a liquid soap and thoroughly rinse them once or twice a week. Replace them every two to four weeks. If you have a cold, change them when your cold symptoms have passed.
Check with your health care provider to learn how to clean your transtracheal catheter. The humidifier bottle should be washed with soap and warm water and rinsed thoroughly between each refill. Air dry the bottle before filling with sterile or distilled water. The bottle and its top should be disinfected after they are cleaned.
If you use an oxygen concentrator, unplug the unit, then wipe down the cabinet with a damp cloth and dry it daily. The air filter should be cleaned at least twice a week. Follow your home medical equipment and services company's directions for cleaning the compressor filter.
Do's and Don'ts
1. Do not change the flow of oxygen unless directed by your physician.
2. Do not consume alcohol or take any other sedating drugs as they will slow your breathing rate.
3. Make sure you order more oxygen from your dealer in a timely manner.
4. Use water-based lubricants on your lips or nostrils. Do not use an oil-based product like petroleum jelly.
5. To prevent your cheeks or the skin behind your ears from becoming irritated, tuck some gauze under the tubing. If you have persistent redness under your nose, call your physician.