Woman laying in Bed with Oxygen Tak-Safety

Oxygen Therapy and Safety Precautions

Suppose you are taking care of someone with a lung disease such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) or Congestive Heart Failure (CHF). In that case, their doctor may have prescribed oxygen therapy to get more oxygen to breathe. The amount needed will depend on their specific condition. If you have questions about how much oxygen they should be taking, please contact their doctor. Below is an overview of some of the equipment you might encounter and tips on how to use them safely while taking care of your relative at home.

How to Get Oxygen in the Home

There are several types of equipment used that can help someone get oxygen while at home. It will mostly come down to the person’s mobility and lifestyle. Below is a list of the most common types of oxygen equipment for the home.

Standard oxygen concentrator.  It runs on electricity or batteries and works by using regular air and filtering it out to get oxygen. It usually weighs about 50 pounds and has wheels so you can move around while hooked up to it. 

Portable oxygen concentrator. This is a good choice if planning on using it while running errands or going to work. It weighs 3-20 pounds so it can be carried. 

Liquid oxygen tank.  Oxygen at lower temperatures becomes a liquid. Oxygen in liquid form takes up less space than gas, so more can be stored. However, a tank can weigh more than 100 pounds. 

Oxygen Safety Precautions

Always use oxygen carefully. Oxygen is a safe gas when appropriately used. Although it does not burn, it does support combustion. Follow these safety precautions when using oxygen from any source (oxygen tank, oxygen concentrator, portable oxygen, etc.)

  • Notify the fire department and the electric company that you are using oxygen. 
  • Place “Oxygen in Use” signs in visible areas.
  • Never place the tank or machine near an open flame (e.g., matches, lit candles, a stove in use). Keep the oxygen tank at least six feet away.
  • Always turn your oxygen off when not in use.
  • Always check the oxygen levels on your oxygen tank. This includes the backup tank as well as the tank that is in use.
  • The oxygen backup tank should be stored lying flat (or upright and secured) and in a safe, well-ventilated place.
  • Check the oxygen tubing for cracks and leaks. Clean the nasal prongs to keep them open.
  • Check the prongs daily.
  • Never smoke when the oxygen source is in your residence. Do not allow anyone else to smoke. Always have a “No Smoking” sign posted in a visible spot.
  • Do not use your oxygen within six feet of electrical appliances, especially stoves, heaters, toasters, or hair dryers.
  • Do not use your oxygen in an area where combustible materials, such as oils, greases, aerosol sprays, lotions, or solvents, are present.
  • Do not use petroleum-based products while oxygen is in use. Avoid the use of products that contain alcohol (e.g., skin products).
  • Get into the habit of checking the batteries of your smoke detector every month and change batteries as needed.
  • Call the Durable Medical Equipment (DME) company for service or any questions you might have.
  • Have fire extinguishers on hand.

Safety Tips When Using An Oxygen Concentrator

Review the general guidelines in addition to following these reminders:

  • Do not use an extension cord with the concentrator. Plug the concentrator into a grounded electrical outlet.
  • Do not plug it into an outlet used by other appliances.
  • Never place anything on top of the concentrator, such as drinks, plants, or books.
  • Never place the concentrator against the wall, curtains or furniture, or in a closet. Room air must freely flow into the unit.
  • Check the alarm unit regularly. This can be done by pulling the plug and listening for the alarm tone.
  • Inspect the filter for the oxygen concentrator regularly. Report any concerns to the vendor listed on the concentrator unit.

Safety Tips When Using An Oxygen Tank

Specific safety rules apply WHENEVER you use oxygen from a tank. Review the general guidelines for using oxygen safely in addition to following these reminders:

  • Check the gauge to confirm the correct flow of oxygen. Check the amount of oxygen available if you are using oxygen from a tank.
  • Turn the gauge to begin the flow of the oxygen and adjust the flow.

Safety Tips When Using Portable Oxygen

There are different types of portable oxygen units. Please familiarize yourself with the specific safety tips that apply to the type you are using. However, Specific safety rules apply regardless of which type of oxygen you are using:

  • Check the gauge to confirm the correct flow of oxygen. Check the amount of oxygen available if you are using oxygen from a tank.
  • Turn the gauge to begin the flow of the oxygen and adjust the flow.
  • When traveling by car, do not allow anyone to smoke in the car. Keep the window slightly open.
  • Place your oxygen unit on the floor next to you or the seat next to you. It is a good idea to secure the oxygen unit with a seat belt whenever possible.
  • Never leave portable oxygen in a car parked in the hot sun.
  • If you plan to travel by bus, train, air, or boat, you should call the transportation provider ahead of time to find out if there are any restrictions on traveling with oxygen.
  • Notify your health care provider before going on anything other than a short trip. You may also need to notify your oxygen supply company. You will need to ensure that you have enough oxygen and may need to arrange for additional oxygen at your destination.

At MJHS, we value both personal and professional caregivers and recognize the critical work you do. That is why we have created these online caregiving resources to help you through this crucial time in your life.

If you need additional help and support caring for your loved one, please feel free to contact MJHS. We can recommend other care options available to you through one of our programs.

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