If you are new to oxygen therapy, you may be overwhelmed with the information that you have been receiving, or you may be searching for more information. To assist your research, we have compiled a few key topics that you should know and understand about oxygen therapy.
Understanding your Diagnosis
The air around us contains a blend of nitrogen, oxygen, and other trace gases. Oxygen itself is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. Our bodies use oxygen to convert the food we eat into energy and heat in order to sustain life. Just as a fire needs oxygen to burn fuel, our bodies need oxygen to burn calories.
Our oxygen saturation level needs to be at somewhere between 95-100%. If your lungs aren’t working at their full capacity, they are likely unable to take in the full amount of oxygen that each breath would normally supply. Insufficient oxygen can result in a condition called “hypoxia” or “hypoxemia.”
Altitude also determines the amount of oxygen in the air, the higher the altitude, the less dense the air is, which results in less oxygen to breathe the higher into the sky you go. This is why some people only need supplemental oxygen when visiting high altitudes but not at sea level. Commercial aircraft cabins are pressurized to the equivalent of 8,000 feet above sea level.
What is Oxygen Therapy?
Oxygen therapy is needed when lungs are not able to absorb the amount of oxygen they need from the natural air around you. Oxygen therapy helps by delivering the exact amount of medical grade oxygen you need to keep you healthy.
For those with COPD or other lung-related illnesses, supplemental oxygen is often required to increase your bodies oxygen to the normal levels.
Benefits of Supplemental Oxygen
When the symptoms of insufficient oxygen are relieved, and your body is getting the therapy it requires, you may feel an increase in physical energy. Additionally, since oxygen affects brain cell function, you will likely notice an improvement in your overall brain health and functions. The benefits of your oxygen therapy will quickly become apparent as soon as you use your concentrator. Regaining your ability to be physically active will have positive effects on every aspect of your overall health. Even small drops in oxygen saturation can affect the body, for example at 94% saturation tunnel vision is a common symptom experienced.
Are There any Down-Sides to Oxygen Therapy?
Although it is tempting to think you can get by without supplemental oxygen, research shows using oxygen can significantly improve your quality of life. A common misconception is that by using supplemental oxygen, you will become more dependent upon it and subsequently weaken your natural ability to process oxygen. Contrary to this comment, using supplemental oxygen will allow the natural processes in your body to work more efficiently, decrease excess strain, and increasing your overall health.
How Oxygen Flow is Measured?
Oxygen is a gas, and the flow is measured in liters per minute. If you require oxygen therapy, your doctor will prescribe you a given oxygen flow rate such as 2 liters per minute (LPM). An oxygen flow rate of 2 LPM means the patient will have 2 liters of oxygen flowing into their nostrils over a period of 1 minute. Oxygen prescriptions generally run from 1 liter per minute to 10 liters per minute with 70% of those patients being prescribed 2 liters or less.
Types of Oxygen Delivery Systems
Continuous flow is the most common type of oxygen delivery. Continuous flow continuously flows oxygen at a steady and specified rate. Continuous flow is easiest to understand when you liken it to a water fountain. When you turn on a water fountain, water streams out at a somewhat steady pace. If the water fountain were flowing at 1 liter per minute and you were to drink from said stream the likelihood of you consuming 1 complete liter of water in your singular drink highly unlikely. The same applies to a continuous flow machine; there will naturally be excess oxygen wasted due to the state of constant oxygen delivery.
Pulse dose delivery goes by many names including pulse flow, conserving device, and a puffer. Pulse flow, as the name “puffer” suggests, puffs or pulses air into your nasal passageway, through a cannula, with each breath. This means that with pulse, oxygen is delivered every time you take a breath in. Should the rate of your breathing increase the oxygen concentrator will react automatically and release another “pulse” of oxygen as needed.
Your doctor usually determines the type of oxygen flow you need; however, some people can use a pulse dose machine and use a pulse oximeter to measure and keep track of their oxygen saturation levels.
When determining what type of machine will meet your needs, there are a lot of options out there. It is best to speak with an oxygen specialist who can help understand not only your oxygen therapy needs but also your lifestyle and financial needs and fit you into the correct machine.
Have more questions about Oxygen Therapy?