Home oxygen treatment involves breathing high concentrations of oxygen from a cylinder or machine in your home. If you’ve been prescribed oxygen therapy, it’s because your blood oxygen level is low. Low oxygen levels can potentially damage your heart or brain. The main purpose of home oxygen treatment is to raise your blood oxygen to a level that prevents such harm. It also helps relieve breathlessness and other symptoms of low blood oxygen, such as ankle swelling and blue lips.
However, using oxygen just for relieving symptoms of breathlessness is not helpful and can cause long term harm by making you less fit. This can also cause a delay in finding out why you are breathless.
If you have a medical condition that leads to a low oxygen level in your blood (hypoxia), you may feel breathless and tired, particularly after walking or coughing. You may also have a build-up of fluid around your ankles (oedema) and blue lips.
Breathing air with a higher concentration of oxygen can help increase the amount of oxygen in your blood. This makes it easier to do activities that might otherwise be more difficult. It also helps reduce the symptoms mentioned above.
Oxygen therapy can help people with a range of health conditions that affect breathing or blood circulation, including:
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – a long-term disease of the lungs, severe long-term asthma
- cystic fibrosis – an inherited disease that causes the lungs to become clogged with thick, sticky mucus
- pulmonary hypertension – high pressure inside the arteries to the lungs, which causes damage to the right-hand side of the heart
- obstructive sleep apnoea – a condition that causes interrupted breathing during sleep diseases of the nerves and muscles or ribcage
- heart failure – when the heart struggles to pump enough blood around the body.
Different types of home oxygen:
Oxygen can be obtained from:
- compressed oxygen cylinders
- liquid oxygen in cylinders
- an oxygen concentrator machine, which extracts oxygen from the air
- Oxygen cylinders
You breathe the oxygen through a mask or through soft tubes in your nose, called nasal cannulae. You can talk, eat and drink while using cannulae. Cylinders containing oxygen compressed into liquid form can contain more oxygen than standard cylinders. This type of oxygen supply will last for longer, and the tank may also be lighter.
Oxygen concentrator machine
An oxygen concentrator machine is convenient if you would benefit from having oxygen for a large number of hours a day, including while you’re asleep. It ensures you have a source of oxygen that never runs out.
Portable cylinders can provide oxygen at a rate of 2 litres or 4 litres a minute, or have an adjustable scale up to 4 litres a minute. The flow required is determined by your lung specialist or the oxygen service healthcare professional. When full, these cylinders weigh just over five pounds (2.3kg) and hold just under two hours of oxygen (at 2 litres a minute).
When going on holiday make sure that you have enough supply to last you plus speak with oxygen providers who can help source medical oxygen for you and even supply back up help for safe peace of mind.