Guide for New Oxygen Therapy Users - Understanding and Expectations

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.

Educate yourself with our Free Oxygen Therapy Guide

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.

Final Thoughts

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?

About Scott Ridl: Scott joined American Medical Sales and Rentals in 2008 as a Web Manager and Content Writer. He is a writer and designer. He is extensively trained on oxygen therapy products from leading manufacturers such as Inogen, Respironics, Chart, Invacare, ResMed and more. Scott works closely with respiratory therapists and oxygen specialists to educate the community about oxygen therapy products, COPD, asthma and lung diseases. He writes weekly columns and is passionate about educating the community on oxygen therapy and respiratory issues.

9 thoughts on “Guide for New Oxygen Therapy Users - Understanding and Expectations”

  • sally


  • priscilla

    right now I am on oxygen in tanks, I want to go to something much lighter to carry, but I am so confuse to the one that would best for me. Can you help me to decide?

    • Scott Ridl

      Thank you for your inquiry. I have passed along your information to a specialist who will reach out regarding your request. For more immediate assistance feel free to give our specialists a call at 877-774-9271 or if you prefer email [email protected].

  • Terri Watts

    Great information. Looking for a used quiet concentrator. This is our first experience with using a concentrator. Want to see if it helps with my Husbands' COPD. Hope to get him feeling better.
    Please let me know what is available that is used. Probably need 2 liter air flow. Prefer Pulse dose.
    Thanks, Terri

    • Margaret Goodman
      Margaret Goodman June 25, 2018 at 8:09 am

      Thank you for your inquiry. I have passed along your information to a specialist who will reach out regarding your request. For more immediate assistance feel free to give our specialists a call at 888-360-9628 or if you prefer email [email protected]

  • Betty Roberts
    Betty Roberts July 13, 2019 at 6:50 am

    Do you have the small unit with continuous flow? I think it’s the one that weighs four lbs. would like Some info by mail. My computer is not useable right now.

    • Ed Rodgers

      Hi Betty. the The lightest continuous machine is the SimplyGo which is about 15 pounds with the battery. If you would like to talk to someone, give us a call at 888-743-0156. we do not have your address on file and recommend you do not leave it on this blog.

  • Michael Herskovits
    Michael Herskovits January 19, 2020 at 1:45 pm

    Does insurance cover EWOT?


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