Death through medical oxygen, But what are the dangers of medical oxygen?

Danger
The benefits of oxygen can be felt by anyone, not just those suffering from a medical condition and requiring supplemental oxygen. We can all find easy ways to increase our oxygen levels naturally through breathing exercises, general exercise, getting more fresh air and eating a balanced diet of foods that help increase oxygenation in our blood.
Increasing your oxygenation levels and being fit and healthy has shown to be important for your health as optimum oxygen levels can improve wound healing, vision, mental clarity and intelligence, boost your immune system, help fight cancer cells, reduce stress levels, improve your heart and respiration and help you to lose weight.
For those people who use supplemental oxygen at home there are also long-term benefits:

  • Prolongs life by reducing heart strain
  • Decreases shortness of breath
  • Makes exercise more tolerable
  • Results in fewer days of hospitalization
  • Improves sleeping
  • Improves quality of life

There are millions of people diagnosed with COPD around the world and 15% of these are prescribed oxygen. The number of COPD patients coming into the market is increasing and is expected to continue to increase for many more years. COPD patients are also increasingly being prescribed oxygen until the end of their life expectancy combined with the fact that COPD is being diagnosed earlier in life due to an increased awareness of the condition means that many more people will be requiring oxygen for longer periods of time.
For those people who suffer with any type of lung condition they may have difficulties when travelling by air. This is due to the reduced air pressure in the aircraft cabins as well as the lack of mobility for long periods of time. Air pressure in an aircraft cabin is lower than air pressure at ground level and feels like being at 6000 to 8000 feet on a mountain. At high altitudes blood oxygen levels fall in everyone, and some people may feel a little breathless. In most people this has no health effect, but if you already have low blood oxygen levels because of your lung condition, then the extra dip that happens while you are in the plane can cause breathlessness and discomfort for you.
Essential Tips to remember before flying:

  1. Ask your doctor well in advance for a letter to take in your hand luggage with details of your condition and medication.
  2. Be sure to take your inhalers in your carry-on bags. One of the most common problems is that people pack their inhalers in the luggage that goes into the hold.
  3. If you get breathless when walking, make sure you have help at airports.
  4. Try to move about every hour. Sitting for too long can lead to blood clots in the legs.
  5. Drink plenty of water and non-alcoholic drinks during the flight..

At OxygenWorldwide we wanted to know if in our 25 years of existence with oxygen users had died from the use of medical oxygen. We are glad to state that we have not found any proof of death related to the use of medical oxygen.
 

Oxygen and brain damage

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Most of us are aware that a lack of oxygen to the brain results in brain damage. However many do not realise that even low levels or a small period of time of oxygen starvation can cause brain damage.
•    Even though the brain makes up only 2 percent of the average person’s body weight, it consumes 20 percent of its oxygen.
•    For every minute that the body goes without breathing, the risk of permanent brain damage increases greatly.
•    After 5 minutes without oxygen, brain cells begin to die off.
Some lung conditions greatly affect the amount of oxygen that the lungs can absorb from the air we breathe and with low oxygen levels it can lead to the brain being slowly deprived of oxygen and possibly result in minor or major brain damage.  Early symptoms of this can be chronic headaches, hypertension or even a heart attack or stroke. Over time there may only be small changes such as memory loss, confusion, difficulty in walking etc. or more major changes such as blindness, personality changes, speech/communication problems or a reduced ability to think flexibly, work through problems or be able to learn new things.
Sleep Apnea is also a worrying condition, which many people with lung conditions suffer from as during the night you can stop breathing for periods of time, even though maybe only for a short while. However each time it happens the chance of oxygen deprivation to the brain greatly increases and also the risk of brain damage. If you feel that you may be suffering from this condition then visit your doctor and you may be prescribed oxygen to have at night to increase your oxygen levels while you sleep.
For those patients using home oxygen therapy it is very important to ensure that the equipment is working correctly and that the flow rate of the oxygen being supplied by the machine is also correct. It may be only slightly out and not make a noticeable difference to your breathing, however even a slight lowering of oxygen levels over time, if left unchecked, may result in poor health implications on your organs, general health and your brain function, especially if there are other health problems you suffer with that may impact upon your oxygen levels.  This is why it is important to visit your doctor regularly and be monitored as well as to check your equipment at home on a regular basis. Discuss with your doctor or equipment provider about alternative equipment or other accessories or indeed other easy natural ways that you can ensure your oxygen levels remain as high as possible during day and night.
References: http://lunginstitute.com and http://www.braininjury-explanation.com

Aspergillosis and your lungs

Aspergillosis is the group of diseases caused by the fungus Aspergillus. It is an opportunistic fungus that exists as moulds and is found in organic debris, dust, compost, foods, spices and rotting plants. It is the second most common fungal infection. Aspergillus fumigatus is the most common species followed by flavus and niger.
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Symptoms can include fever, cough, chest pain and breathlessness which also occur in many other illnesses which can make diagnosis difficult. Usually only patients with weakened immune systems or pre-existing lung conditions are susceptible.
The major forms of disease are:
* Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis – this affects patients with respiratory disease such as asthma, CF and COPD.
* Acute invasive aspergollosis – a form that grows into surrounding tissue, common with patients that are immuno-compromised such as those with AIDs or receiving chemotherapy.
* Disseminated invasive aspergillosis – an infection that spreads throughout the whole body
* Aspergilloma – a ‘fungus ball’ that can form within cavities, especially within the lungs. The fungus settles in a cavity and is able to grow freely because some elements of the immune system are unable to penetrate into the cavity. As the fungus multiplies, it forms a ball, which incorporates dead tissue from the surrounding lung, mucus, and other debris.
The Aspergillus spores are inhaled and spread by airborne transmission. The spores are in the atmosphere all year round but are at their peak during the late autumn. If inhaled by a healthy individual you are unlikely to present with any symptoms however if you are susceptible then you may present with weight loss, a cough, shortness of breath, coughing up of blood, fever, tiredness and chest pain.
Bed rest, humidified oxygen therapy and cough suppressants are normally enough to treat an infection. However, if the symptoms are graver then postural drainage, anti-fungal drugs or lung surgery may be required. Aspergillosis typically heals with treatment though it may reoccur if you are repeatedly exposed to the fungus. Complications include airway blockage, respiratory failure, kidney damage, and bleeding in the lungs.
Oxygen therapy helps not only to relieve the symptoms caused by the fungus but also because the fungus cannot survive in high oxygen levels If the fungus infection is within the lungs themselves or nose and throat then they will be surrounded instantly and continuously by the higher oxygen levels breathed in by the patient and it will help to disperse the fungal infection.
Those patients who have lung diseases or are otherwise susceptible to infection are advised to check their homes and environments for mould and to check their bedding and not inhale near composts or rotting vegetation. If you get any symptoms then check with your doctor who can test for the presence of a fungal infection and treat accordingly to the type of infection that you have, as different species of the fungus will present with differing symptoms and may need to be treated slightly differently.
References: http://en.wikipedia.org and www.nacpatients.org.uk and www.healthline.com

You can sometimes feel short of breath even when on oxygen

Many patients with advanced lung cancer can sometimes feel short of breath even when they are on oxygen and showing that they have an acceptable oxygen level of over 90%. There are a few reasons why this can happen.
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If your oxygen level drops below 88% this signals to the brain that you need more oxygen and initiates dyspnea (shortness of breath) and a sense of air hunger. This signal is also triggered when other pulmonary test levels are low. The Vital Capacity is how much air there is from the beginning to the end of a breath and the FEV1 is a measure of how much air you can forcefully exhale in one second. Even when your oxygen levels are good at 90% if any of the other values are low then the body can sense dyspnea.
The use of an inhaler can be very effective in improving the Vital Capacity and FEV1 and can immediately improve breathing symptoms and stop the feeling of shortness of breath due to the effect the inhalers have on widening the airways.
Also many patients can be not very physically fit due to a combination of the medical illness, age and obesity. Introducing more exercise into daily life can help to improve cardio/respiratory fitness thereby improving the Vital Capacity and FEV1 and helping to reduce the frequency of periods where you feel short of breath.
Low blood counts (anaemia), heart disease and advanced kidney disease are conditions that can also cause dyspnea even if your lungs are working effectively.
Vital capacity and FEV1 are pulmonary tests that your doctor can perform to see how effectively your lungs are working so regular check-ups are important and your doctor can help ensure that if you suffer from these situations that they are treated to help improve your breathing. Some patients find that when these other factors are dealt with that they are less reliant upon their oxygen.
If you suffer from bouts of breathlessness then there are things you can do to help yourself:
•    If you smoke, get help to quit.
•    Try some breathing techniques. If you practise these and use them every day, they will help you when you are active and getting breathless. They will also help you manage if you get short of breath suddenly.
– Blow as you go: breathe out when you are making a big effort, such as standing up, stretching or bending.
– Pursed-lips breathing: breathe out with your lips pursed as if you were whistling.
•    Be more physically active. Physical activity could be walking, gardening, walking the dog, housework or swimming as well as going to a gym. If you have a lung condition, you can be referred to a pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) programme by your doctor, and if you have a heart problem there are cardiac rehabilitation services too. These classes help you to get control over your breathlessness, get you fitter and are also lots of fun.
•    Drink and eat healthily and manage your weight.  If you are carrying excess weight you will require more effort to breathe and move around, and it will be more difficult to get control over your feelings of breathlessness.
•    Get treatment if you feel stressed or anxious.
•    Use the right medication in the right way. If you use inhalers, tablets or liquids to control your breathing ensure you know how and when to take them correctly.
•    Ensure your oxygen flow rate is correct. Another reason why regular check-ups are important so your doctor can monitor your oxygen requirements and adjust your oxygen flow rate accordingly for your oxygen concentrator.
References: http://www.coalitionforpf.org and http://www.blf.org.uk

Helping you to breathe at home

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.

How home oxygen treatment can help

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

People who have oxygen therapy have different requirements. Some people only need oxygen therapy for short periods during the day, when they’re walking about (ambulatory oxygen). Others need it for longer periods and during the night.

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

If you just need oxygen for short periods to relieve attacks of breathlessness after an illness, you will probably be prescribed oxygen cylinders. However, this should be reviewed after a certain time so that the short-term relief does not hide more serious underlying heart or lung conditions. If your blood oxygen levels are normal for you during a review, that short-term oxygen should be withdrawn.
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.
An oxygen concentrator is a machine, about two-and-a-half feet (75cm) high, which plugs into your electrical socket. It filters oxygen from the air in the room and delivers it through plastic tubing to a mask or nasal cannulae.
Long tubing can be fixed around the floor or skirting board of your house, with two points where you can “plug in” to the oxygen supply.
When the machine is installed, the engineer or nurse will discuss with you the length of tubing you’ll need. The machine is very quiet and compact, and the engineer will explain how to use it and will answer any questions you have.
A back-up cylinder of oxygen is also provided in case the machine breaks down. Regular maintenance visits will be made to make sure the concentrator is always working properly.

Portable (ambulatory) oxygen

If you’d like to have a small portable cylinder to take oxygen outside your home, talk to your specialist. You’ll need to be fully assessed to see whether portable oxygen (also known as ambulatory oxygen therapy) is likely to be helpful.
Portable oxygen is not recommended if you have heart failure or if you smoke.
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).

Going on holiday

If you are going on holiday in England or Wales, talk to your supplier to see if you can make arrangements to have home oxygen supplied to you at your destination. Try to give them as much notice as possible.
Before you arrange your holiday, check with your doctor that you are well enough to travel.

Safety

Oxygen is a fire hazard and, if you are supplied with home oxygen, it is important to take precautions.
For example:

  • do not let anyone smoke while you are using oxygen
  • keep away from flammable liquids while using oxygen – these include alcohol gel, cleaning fluid or aerosols
  • keep oxygen at least six feet away from flames or heat sources
  • keep oxygen cylinders upright to avoid them getting damaged

Your home oxygen supplier is also likely to let the local fire service know that there is oxygen in your home. They may request a risk assessment, even if you do not smoke.