Oxygen therapy is a method of passing extra oxygen to the lungs. It is done to increase the level of oxygen in your blood.
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Oxygen therapy is needed when you cannot get enough oxygen breathing normal air. It is most often needed because of a health problem or injury. Some common reasons that people need oxygen therapy include:
Oxygen therapy is safe. There is an increased risk of fire around oxygen, but basic steps will help avoid this:
- Keep the oxygen supply away from open flames.
- Do not smoke. Do not allow anyone to smoke around you.
Oxygen therapy is only given if you have low oxygen levels in your blood. Your blood oxygen levels will be measured. This can be done with a quick scan on your fingers.
A prescription for oxygen will be needed. The prescription will include:
- How much oxygen is needed
- How the oxygen will be given
- When to use it
Oxygen therapy is most often given with a nasal cannula or a facemask. A nasal cannula is a tube that is put just under your nostrils. If you have a stoma, oxygen can also be given through a tube directly to the stoma.
Oxygen may be delivered through 1 of 3 systems:
- Concentrators—electrical device that pull oxygen from the air
- Compressed gas systems—available in steel or aluminum tanks (including small tanks that can be carried)
- Liquid systems—include both a large, stationary component and a smaller, portable component to carry oxygen
The amount of oxygen therapy is based on your condition. It may be needed for a few hours a day or 24 hours a day.
Oxygen therapy is painless.
Call your doctor if any of these occur:
- Cough, trouble breathing, or chest pain
- Gray/blue tint around eyes, lips, and gums
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- You are having trouble delivering the oxygen
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
Bateman NT, Leach RM. ABC of oxygen.
Bailey RE. Home oxygen therapy for treatment of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Am Fam Physician. 2004;70(5). Available at
http://www.aafp.org/afp/2004/0901/p864.html. Accessed December 22, 2014.
Oxygen therapy. American thoracic society website. Available at:
http://patients.thoracic.org/information-series/en/resources/oxygen-therapy.pdf. Published 2005. Accessed December 22, 2014.
American Lung Association
website. Available at:
http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/copd/living-with-copd/supplemental-oxygen.html. Accessed December 22, 2014.
Last reviewed December 2014 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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