What is Supplemental Oxygen?
Having enough oxygen in the bloodstream is vital for our body to maintain its basic functions. Oxygen is what keeps our hearts pumping, our lungs healthy, our muscles fueled, and our brains active. If you have developed a respiratory disease, either acute or chronic, you may need to talk to your doctor about supplemental oxygen. These illnesses can often lead to an increased need for oxygen in the body for it to continue to operate on a healthy level. Without enough oxygen, the body will compensate in different ways that can cause unnecessary stress and discomfort.
Receiving supplemental oxygen is also known as oxygen therapy, where oxygen is prescribed by a physician as a form of medical treatment. The World Health Organization (WHO) has deemed oxygen therapy as the most safe and effective form of medicine in the healthcare industry. For those who need it, supplemental oxygen greatly improves one’s quality of life and helps patients continue their normal routines. These days we have impressive technology that allows people in need of oxygen to go about their daily lives feeling safe and in good shape.
How Do I Know if I Need Supplemental Oxygen?
Oxygen therapy is used to treat a wide variety of respiratory illnesses and other conditions such as:
- Low blood oxygen levels
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Bronchopulmonary dysplasia
- Cluster headaches
- Cystic fibrosis
- Pulmonary fibrosis
- Sleep apnea
- Carbon monoxide toxicity
- Interstitial lung disease (ILD)
- Breathlessness caused by lung cancer
Lack of oxygen in the bloodstream is called hypoxemia, and has obvious signs like a quick heart rate, rapid breathing, blue-colored skin on the face or under the fingernails, confusion, sweating, coughing, and wheezing. If you have any of these illnesses or experience shortness of breath on a regular basis, you can ask your physician to perform a few tests to determine if you need supplemental oxygen.
You have the option to request an arterial blood gas study. This is a blood test in which the doctor will draw blood from an artery in your arm to analyze the amount of oxygen gas in your blood. Or, for a less invasive (and more commonly used) test, your doctor will perform an oximetry test. A small device will be placed on your finger that projects light into your hand. This method analyzes the amount of light that is absorbed by the oxygen in your red blood cells. Depending on how saturated your blood is with oxygen, your O2 sat can be determined, which is normally around 98 to 100 percent. If it falls below 89 percent while you are at rest or just after walking around for a bit, supplemental oxygen is necessary.
In mild cases, your physician might prescribe you to use oxygen therapy only when necessary, such as during sleep, exercise, or if you are feeling particularly sick. If conditions are more severe, you may have to be on supplementary oxygen continuously each day. Whatever your doctor prescribes, be sure to do exactly as he advises! If you need oxygen all day but only take it when it’s convenient or when you remember to, your oxygen saturation could drop to a very low level and create a medical emergency. Yikes!
How Can I Receive Supplemental Oxygen?
There are a couple different machines you can use if you are prescribed supplemental oxygen. Patients that are in the care of licensed facilities like hospitals mainly use high-pressure oxygen systems, which are bulky machines that can’t be moved. For a more practical device that fits in with your lifestyle, you may want to consider these options:
Portable oxygen tanks
These tanks are filled with compressed oxygen gas or liquid oxygen that becomes a gas. Oxygen is delivered at a constant flow until the tank is depleted, at which point it will need to be refilled.
Home oxygen concentrators
Air is comprised of 79 percent nitrogen and 21 percent oxygen. Oxygen concentrators don’t need to be refilled because they take in the air around you and filter out the nitrogen to deliver pure oxygen. This device stays in your home and has a maximum oxygen output of 96 percent.
Portable oxygen concentrators (POC)
POC’s function the same way as home oxygen concentrators, the only difference is that they are lightweight and mobile! You can take them everywhere with you, including flights, cars, and while you are active. They can even be charged in a vehicle’s DC plug (cigarette lighter receptacle) or used with rechargeable batteries. Oxygen is delivered through a cannula, which is a two-pronged tube that fits right inside your nose to supply a direct oxygen flow to you when you need it.
Supplemental Oxygen Safety Hazards to Avoid
- Avoid smoking, being around an open flame, cooking with gas, or using electrical appliances such as hair driers and electric razors while using supplemental oxygen.
- Don’t use aerosol sprays, hairsprays, and petroleum-based creams and lotions while handling your device, as these are very flammable. Instead, use water-based products.
- Store your oxygen device in an open area where air can move freely. Never place anything on it that might block the air intakes. Keep it a few feet away from curtains and walls.
- Be careful not to trip over your cannula tubing. Find a place to tape or fasten it to your clothing.
- Make sure to turn the oxygen device off if it isn’t being used.
- Keep a working fire extinguisher nearby along with plenty of functioning smoke alarms just in case.
- In the event of a power outage, consider having a backup generator available if you do not have a POC device.
- If you do have a POC, secure it safely inside its carrying device to avoid dropping it and possibly sustaining injuries.
Take Care of Yourself
Supplemental oxygen is a medicine and should be taken exactly as prescribed by your physician. Your life and overall health are of the utmost importance. Once you learn how to use your device, you can live each day feeling less fatigued, more active, and have more stamina to enjoy the day. With supplemental oxygen, you can feel liberated from the symptoms of respiratory illnesses as you are free to live your life on your own terms. Your quality of life doesn’t have to be limited!
Have any questions for us? We’d love to help you find the right supplementary oxygen device for you, so you can live your very best life.
Our support team is available 24/7 to answer all your questions! Call us today at 1-800-375-6060.