The 12 things every home oxygen user should know
People with low blood oxygen levels may benefit from home oxygen therapy to help them to feel more energetic, making everyday life easier.
It is important to have an oxygen prescription from your health professional to make sure you are using the correct amount of oxygen for maximum benefit.
If you have been prescribed home oxygen here are 12 tips which every home oxygen user should know:
- Oxygen therapy can help. Some people with lung diseases do not get enough oxygen into their blood. Low levels of blood oxygen mean that vital organs are being deprived of oxygen and this can cause damage over time. Blood tests are used to confirm if this is the case. Home oxygen therapy can help those with confirmed low blood oxygen by ensuring enough oxygen gets to vital organs. In some cases, home oxygen therapy can also make everyday life easier and more enjoyable.
- Regular medical reviews are vital. It is important to have your oxygen prescription checked by a respiratory specialist at least once a year. Or, if you feel your condition has changed, make an appointment to see your doctor earlier. Do not adjust your oxygen flow rate on your own.
- Oxygen does not always relieve breathlessness. There are many reasons why people have trouble breathing. Home oxygen therapy may relieve shortness of breath for some people, but for many it does not. Sometimes you need a combination of therapies to help relieve breathlessness. Ask your doctor, respiratory nurse or physiotherapist to fully explain the benefits you can expect from oxygen.
- Oxygen is not addictive. Home oxygen therapy is not addictive and it will not weaken your lungs. You will get maximum benefit by using oxygen for the amount of time prescribed by your doctor.
- There is a range of oxygen equipment available. There are two main types of oxygen equipment used in Australia. The most common is the oxygen concentrator which filters nitrogen out of the air to deliver almost pure oxygen. Gas cylinders filled with oxygen are also widely used and come in a range of different sizes. The smaller cylinders are light enough to take with you when leaving the house and often go by the name portable oxygen cylinders.
- Some oxygen equipment is funded. Many home oxygen users will qualify for government funded equipment. However, qualifying rules are different in every state. If you need extra equipment, you can purchase or hire it direct from an oxygen supplier. Ask your doctor or a member of your healthcare team for help in working out the equipment that is best for you. A series of helpful practical support tools have been developed to support this booklet. They include equipment checklists and can be found online at: http://lungfoundation.com.au/patient-support/living-with-a-lung-condition/oxygen/
- Oxygen is safe to use but can make things burn more intensely. Do not put yourself or your oxygen equipment near any sources of extreme heat, flames, or devices which could cause a spark, including a lit cigarette or e-cigarette. A study in the US has shown that smoking is by far the largest cause of serious burns in people using home oxygen.
- Continue on with everyday life. Although it may take a while to get used to your oxygen equipment, try to continue with your normal routines as much as possible. Many people do not need to use their oxygen during trips outside the home. For those who do, feelings of self-consciousness about using oxygen equipment in public are usually short lived. Once your confidence improves, the benefits should start to outweigh any downsides.
- Avoid smoking and being around smokers. Cigarette smoke is very damaging to the lungs. Quitting smoking is the single most effective thing you can do to help your condition. It is also important to avoid other people’s cigarette smoke.
- Keeping active is good for your health. Regular physical activity is very important for those with lung disease to help you perform activities of daily living more easily. Activity does not need to be strenuous. Good activities include walking the dog, an outing, or even just doing jobs around the house. A pulmonary rehabilitation program can also teach you how to exercise more easily. For information on a program near you, visit http://lungfoundation.com.au/pulmonary-rehabilitation-programs-2/ or phone our freecall Information and Support Centre on 1800 654 301.
- Travelling with oxygen equipment is possible and requires planning. Some of the things to check before booking a trip are: how to correctly transport your equipment; whether you can use your portable oxygen during the journey; and how to arrange an oxygen supply at your destination. You may also need a letter from your doctor stating that you are fit to travel.
- Plan what to do in an emergency, such as a power blackout. The most important thing to remember is to try to remain calm and not panic. Although losing power will be annoying, most oxygen users (even those on oxygen for 18 hours a day or more) are safe without their oxygen supply for many hours, if they rest. Call an ambulance if you are in need of urgent assistance.