How to Avoid the Risks of Oxygen Therapy

As long as it is administered properly, it's rare to experience any major side effects from using oxygen therapy. Everything that is mostly beneficial, any type of treatment for an illness, can have its share of drawbacks and possible dangers.

Just jogging every day would be great for your hear and lungs, but it might be causing damage to your knees. You could be getting a great exercise from playing tennis, but your elbow is now in pain. There is a good side and bad side to everything. Many of the problems you might face with oxygen therapy can be prevented, however. You just need to know what to watch out for and what you can do to avoid them.

Contaminated Supplies

The Dallas County Medical Examiner's office had reported 11 deaths due to improper handling of oxygen by a supplier. The oxygen delivered to the patients' houses was contaminated with a cleaning solvent, which was toxic and breathed in by the patients when they used the oxygen. Cases like this are extremely rare, but contamination can happen due to human error. You can avoid things like this by using oxygen concentrators, or the HomeLox system, which do not require the delivery of oxygen tanks from a supplier.

Lowered Respiratory Drive

Your body is constantly maintaining an ideal balance referred to as homeostasis. To do this, the gases in your bloodstream, oxygen and carbon dioxide, have to stay at the right ratio. If you have too much carbon dioxide in your blood and not enough oxygen, you require oxygen therapy, but at the right amount. If too much oxygen is administered at the beginning, you could experience depressed breathing, or the inability to breathe in quick enough to receive the right amount of oxygen. Your doctor will keep a close eye on you at this time, and you should never change the predetermined settings on your oxygen equipment without your doctor's instructions.

Pulmonary Oxygen Toxicity

Another risk factor of too much oxygen is pulmonary oxygen toxicity. When exposed to too much oxygen over a longer period of time, which could be anywhere from a few hours to a few days, damage occurs inside the lungs. The first sign of this problem is a cough, caused by severe irritation of the airways. This problem worsens when your lungs start to leak fluid that gets into the smaller air sacks, which will make it much harder to breathe. This usually only happens when the patient decides to increase the oxygen without first consulting their doctor.

Respiratory Infections

Bacterial infections can take place if the tubing, filter and humidifier in the oxygen equipment aren't properly cleaned or replaced when necessary. Your doctor or medical supplier will instruct you on how often to change the filter and clean or replace the rubber tubes. The humidifier reservoir should be cleaned often with hot water and a mild detergent to prevent the growth of mold or bacteria. You should also only fill the reservoir with pure, distilled water to be sure that it's clean.

Information on this page is for reference and educational purposes only. For more information talk to your doctor or primary care provider.

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.

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