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7 Tips for Living Comfortably with Oxygen at Home

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Learn how to manage your oxygen equipment to enhance your quality of life

Many people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary fibrosis and other lung diseases eventually require supplemental oxygen therapy to reduce breathlessness. However, receiving a prescription for home oxygen can feel distressing. Suddenly, everyone who encounters you will know you have some sort of medical condition that requires you to use oxygen.

As you navigate the challenges of setting up and using home oxygen therapy, remember it can greatly improve your quality of life as your COPD, pulmonary fibrosis or other lung disease progresses.

Follow these 7 tips and strategies to learn how to live comfortably with home oxygen:

1. Talk with family and friends in advance

The first time your lung doctor brings up the topic of oxygen therapy, go home and have a conversation with family members about how this will affect your life. Let them know the oxygen will allow you to stay active and continue to do the things you enjoy doing with them.

Ask for their support as you learn to adapt to using home and portable oxygen. These conversations may help keep life as normal as possible as you get started on oxygen therapy.

2. Understand your concentrator’s maintenance requirements

Many people receive an oxygen concentrator for home oxygen therapy. This machine can reside in a discreet corner and deliver oxygen to your nose through a long tube that can reach throughout the home.

When the home oxygen supplier sets up your concentrator, talk to them about required concentrator maintenance. For example, concentrators with a filter require a periodic filter change.

3. Replace your tubing and cannulas on a schedule

Supplemental oxygen therapy uses two separate pieces of tubing: a long tube that connects to the concentrator or tank, and a nasal cannula that attaches to the tubing and delivers the oxygen to your nostrils. Ask your oxygen supplier how often to change the main tubing and the cannula.

In general, you should change the cannula frequently even if it does not appear to be soiled. The tubing should be changed every month or two.

4. Keep extra tubing and cannulas close at hand

Always keep extra oxygen tubing and cannulas within easy reach in case either item becomes damaged during use. It’s not difficult to accidentally run a vacuum cleaner over a section of tubing, for example, and cut it.

Having extra tubing nearby will help you avoid a disruption of oxygen flow.

5. Have a plan for power outages

If your home loses electricity, your oxygen concentrator may not work. To avoid losing your oxygen supply during a power outage, write down an action plan. Your plan should include switching immediately to a portable oxygen tank until your power is restored.

Should you run out of oxygen before the electricity comes back on, call for medical assistance. If you have the ability, some people choose to purchase a home backup generator.

6. Clean the humidifier often

If you use a humidifier bottle with your oxygen concentrator, clean it very frequently. Bacteria can build up rapidly in humidifier attachments.

Remove the bottle and wash it with soap and water weekly.

7. Practice fire safety

Oxygen itself is not flammable or explosive, but oxygen concentrators and tanks both infuse the environment with oxygen. They can cause fires to burn much more rapidly than normal. Keep oxygen equipment such as tanks away from any source of open flame.

Ask your doctor or home oxygen supplier about safe cooking practices if you use a gas range. Above all, do not allow anyone to smoke in your oxygen-rich environment.

We’re Here to Help

Your care team at the Temple Lung Center understands adapting to home oxygen can be challenging. Do not hesitate to reach out if you need help navigating the situation. We’re here to help you live as well as possible with a lung disease.

Eileen M. Mumm, MSN, CRNP, FNP-BC

Eileen M. Mumm is a pulmonary nurse practitioner at the Temple Lung Center.

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