Home Oxygen Therapy: What to Know
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Your body can’t live without the oxygen you breathe in from the air. But if you have lung disease or other medical conditions, you may not get enough of it. That can leave you short of breath and cause problems with your heart, brain, and other parts of your body.
Do I Need It?
Home oxygen therapy can help with many conditions, including:
How Much Will I Need?
Your doctor will give you a prescription that spells out how much oxygen you need per minute and when you need to get it. Some people may need oxygen therapy only when they exercise or sleep. Others may need it all day long.
Your doctor will figure out how much extra oxygen you need after they check your usual levels, either with a blood test or through the skin using a device that clips to your finger, toe, or earlobe.
You can get oxygen in several ways. The best choice for you depends on how much you need, your lifestyle, and other things.
Standard oxygen concentrator. This machine has a motor and runs on electricity or sometimes batteries. It takes in regular air and filters out other gases to get the oxygen. It weighs about 50 pounds and usually has wheels so you can move about while you’re hooked up to it. If you have the plug-in kind, you’ll need a backup source of oxygen in case the power goes out.
Portable oxygen concentrator. This is a good choice for when you run errands or go to work. It weighs 3-20 pounds so you can carry it. You can plug some models into your car or run them on battery packs.
Liquid oxygen tank. Usually, oxygen is a gas. But at lower temperatures it becomes a liquid. It takes up less space than gas, so you can store a lot more liquid oxygen in a thermos-like tank. When it comes out, the liquid converts to a gas right away so you can breathe it in. A tank can weigh more than 100 pounds, and you need to refill it every few weeks.
You can also fill up a smaller canister that’s easy to carry when you leave the house.
Compressed oxygen gas tank. This is an older and less common choice. It squeezes, or compresses, oxygen under high pressure inside a metal cylinder or tank. It’s very heavy, and the tank can’t be moved. You replace empty tanks every few days. Compressed gas also comes in smaller, portable cylinders, but they only last a short time.
You will also need a way to breathe in the oxygen. You can use a:
Nasal cannula. This is a soft plastic tube with two small prongs at one end. They go in your nose, and the tube rests over your ears to hold it in place. The other end connects to your oxygen supply. The nasal cannula delivers steady oxygen. It can dry your nose out a little.
Face mask. This fits snugly over your mouth and nose. The mask can make it hard to talk, and you can’t wear it while you eat or drink. Usually, you would use a mask to get high levels of oxygen.
Transtracheal catheter. For this surgery, your doctor inserts a small plastic tube called a catheter through your neck just below your Adam’s apple and into your windpipe. A necklace holds the tube in place. The other end connects to your oxygen supply. You can’t see the catheter if your shirt is buttoned to the top. Another advantage is that you need a smaller oxygen flow since it goes directly into your airway. But it has several drawbacks. One is that the opening in your neck could get infected.
Oxygen is a safe gas, but it will make something else burn hotter, brighter, and more easily. Always follow these safety tips around oxygen:
Oxygen Therapy Benefits For Adults And Seniors
Breathing in oxygen is such a vital part of our lives, yet we do so without even realizing it. However, there are times when patients struggle to take in enough oxygen from the air. In these instances, they may be prescribed oxygen therapy which has many benefits.
It is commonly used to treat many different conditions. Increasing the amount of oxygen in the blood contributes toward improving patients’ overall health.
Depending on how minor or serious an individual’s condition is, short-term or long-term oxygen therapy may be required.
Oxygen therapy can be life-saving
For patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the benefits of oxygen therapy are huge. COPD is a disease of the lungs and in severe cases, it can cause serious complications.
One of these is hypoxemia where the levels of oxygen in the blood are too low. By reducing these complications, oxygen therapy helps to regulate the heart beat and deliver essential oxygen to the heart and bodily tissues. For this reason, it is also used in the treatment of heart failure.
For those with COPD, other lung diseases, and heart failure, oxygen therapy can really be a lifesaver. Not only does it help in treating acute cases, it can prolong life.
When oxygen therapy is used
The benefits of oxygen therapy cover not only those with severe COPD. For those with a milder form of the condition, shortness of breath, fatigue, depression, and dizziness are common symptoms.
Living with these symptoms can greatly reduce both adults and seniors’ quality of life. A treatment plan including supplemental oxygen can help relieve these symptoms.
Oxygen therapy is also used to treat other respiratory illnesses such as asthma, pneumonia, and cystic fibrosis. Sleeping disorders such as sleep apnea are another reason an individual may require oxygen therapy.
Additional oxygen also helps the body to heal itself so can be used to treat post-operative patients or those with serious injuries. A deficiency of oxygen can lead to headaches, fatigue, swollen ankles, and irritability.
Oxygen therapy benefits patients by increasing energy levels allowing them to be more active. Breathing becomes easier and higher oxygen levels can improve mental alertness and wellbeing. All this contributes to an improved quality of life.
How oxygen therapy is given
After a consultation and examination, specialists and doctors decide if a patient would benefit from oxygen therapy.
There are two main ways that oxygen is delivered: through a nasal cannula or a face mask. These are linked to one of two machines; either continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP).
Therapy can be given in the daytime or during the night. The latter is especially important for those suffering from sleep apnea. Some patients will require only a short amount of time receiving supplementary oxygen. For those with advanced COPD, the treatment can last for longer periods (at least 15 hours per day).
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