Our oxygen concentrators come with their own nasal cannula and rubber tubing, but these are only suitable for patients who are in a stable condition. In the case of a COPD exacerbation or an acute flare up of any kind, you will need to get a face mask, or a special face mask called a non-rebreathe mask if a much higher dose of oxygen needs to be delivered. Using any one of these types can become uncomfortable, but there are some things you can do to make them a little less uncomfortable.
Making the Tubing and Cannula More Comfortable
First, try on the cannula, and slide the adjuster up so that it fits snugly against your chin and jaw. Wear it for a few uses of your concentrator to see if it bothers you. If it doesn't, then you won't need to worry about it. Just because it feels fine for the first few uses, doesn't mean it will never bother you in the future. Other factors, such as the time of year and how dry your skin is at the time will make a difference in how your cannula feels. Here are some tips for fixing the problems that may arise.
If the rubber is chaffing up against your face, add padding to the tubing by wrapping it with white, fabric first aide tape. Double wrap it if you need to. Fabric first aide tape is easy to remove when it starts to get dirty, but this will make the contact points softer and smoother against your skin.
If the nasal prongs are rubbing up against the insides of your nostrils and making them sore, there probably isn't enough moisture in your nose to keep it from rubbing them raw. Apply a thin amount of a water based lubricant to the ends of the prongs. You can also use a saline nasal spray daily to keep your nasal passages moist enough for comfort. This is one of the problems that are more likely to happen during the winter when the air is very dry.
Making Your Face Mask More Comfortable
You may need to try on several different oxygen face masks until you find the right one that fits your face. This may be hard to do, since only some brands make masks in sizes other than small, medium and large. You might need to look for masks in a brand that creates extra small or extra large, or medium-large. Don't worry about being bothersome to your doctor or medical supply company – your comfort in using your equipment should be a top priority.
To avoid too much moisture and condensation in your mask, which can irritate your skin, wipe down the inside of the mask daily with a clean, lint-free cloth, and wash it in hot water and gentle detergent once a week to keep bacteria from growing. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to see how you should be cleaning your equipment in case there are any special instructions.