May 1, 2016

Home oxygen therapy equipment: Simple winter safety reminders

Although not all of us will worry about snow and ice during winter in Australia, most of us will feel the chill and the need to rug up to stay warm. With the winter weather soon upon us, make sure you follow some general safety precautions when using your home oxygen therapy equipment.

Oxygen makes things burn much faster. Any material that is already burning will burn much faster and hotter in an oxygen-enriched environment. When using your oxygen, you and your equipment should always keep three metres away from open flames or sparks including open fireplaces.

Keep room heaters in proper working order: It is safe to use your oxygen around heaters as long as there are no electric sparks. Never place the oxygen concentrator/cylinder or tubing near open flames and sparks including gas pilot lights.

Placement of your oxygen equipment: Oxygen concentrators should be operated in a well-ventilated area away from heat sources. Never drape clothing or other material over your oxygen supply source. Make sure that the air entrance (on the back or side of the concentrator) and the air exit (underneath the concentrator) remains free of any obstruction such as walls, curtains, fabric, carpet and cushions at all times. Plug your concentrator directly into the electrical socket rather than a power board.

Turn your oxygen off when not in use: Always make sure the cannula or mask is not left running, especially on any soft material such as blankets, clothes, lounges or cushions for any amount of time. Oxygen is absorbed into the material and makes it more flammable. Oxygen will remain in your clothing for up to 20 minutes after it has been turned off and precautions should still be taken when you are near open flames or sparks during this time. Remember to allow 5-10 minutes after switching a concentrator machine off for the oxygen to leave the system.
Do not use anything containing oil on your skin: Avoid petroleum-based lotions or creams, like Vaseline, on your face or upper chest. For lubrication or rehydration of dry nasal passages, use water-based products or speciality products such as “Nozoil” which contains sesame seed oil.

Use FireSafe™ Valves with your home oxygen equipment: Fires spread rapidly to your cannula/mask and to the oxygen source. The FireSafe™ Valve is a thermal fuse designed to stop a fire spreading up the tubing if one end catches fire. Contact your home healthcare oxygen supplier for detailed information and specifications.

Have your home ready: Make sure you have working smoke detectors and a working fire extinguisher in your home. If you move around the house with your oxygen, you may need more than one fire extinguisher in different locations.