Oxygen makes up 20% of the air we breathe and is an essential part of life. We take oxygen into our bodies each time we take a breath and the oxygen from the lungs is then dissolved into the blood and delivered to the tissues and organs of the body as the blood circulates. In healthy people, the lungs keep the amount of oxygen in the blood stream at a normal level, but if your lungs are damaged, they may not always deliver enough oxygen to the blood.
The body can tolerate low levels of oxygen for short periods of time, however long periods of time can damage your vital organs. Home oxygen therapy helps to return your blood oxygen levels to normal, which helps reduce damage to your organs and can help you live longer.
If you have low blood oxygen levels, home oxygen therapy may help you to feel more energetic, making everyday activities easier. Specific blood tests are used to determine if your oxygen levels are too low. If tests show that your blood oxygen saturation levels are adequate, then oxygen therapy is not likely to benefit you. If you are prescribed oxygen therapy, your doctor will tell you how many hours you should use oxygen each day to achieve maximum benefit. It is important to understand your oxygen therapy prescription and follow it carefully. Some different scenarios of when you might require oxygen include:
- Only during activity (exertional oxygen)
- Only while sleeping (nocturnal oxygen)
- Continuous, long-term oxygen – in this case, oxygen may be prescribed for at least 18 hours a day.