How to Use a Cannula with a Oxygen Concentrator

If you need oxygen therapy currently, or if you ever needed oxygen at any point in your life, it was most likely delivered through a nasal cannula. A nasal cannula is the name for the rubber prongs and the attached tubing that is inserted into the nostrils, which runs along the side of the face and around the back of the head. They are also often referred to simply as nasal prongs.

How to use a nasal cannula with your oxygen therapy equipment might seem pretty self-explanatory, but there are few things you should know about this important oxygen therapy accessory.

If you purchase or rent an oxygen concentrator from American Medical, a nasal cannula and tubing will come with it, along with the other accessories you will need to start using your oxygen concentrator right away. The cannula itself will not come with instructions, so you can refer to this article.

Who Should Use a Nasal Cannula?

Nasal cannulas will work with oxygen concentrators between the settings of less than 1 LPM (liters per minute) to 6 LPM, which is the range in which most people need their dosage to be. Nasal cannulas are also suitable for people who wish to stay active and mobile since nasal cannulas are not restrictive.

The only times you might have a problem is if you need a higher dosage, you're experiencing too much discomfort, and if you need to use oxygen therapy while you sleep, and you find that you toss and turn too much and the cannula won't stay in place. In these cases, a face mask would be the better option.

Cleaning and Replacing Your Nasal Cannula

You should clean your nasal cannula thoroughly once a week. Giving it a good rinse and sanitation doesn't take a lot of time. Keeping it clean is important because bacteria will grow quickly inside the prongs, being in a dark and moist environment. If you are sick, you should clean it every day after using it.

Clean it with a solution of clean water, gentle detergent and a little bit of vinegar. Make sure the solution gets swished around well inside the prongs, and rinse it out thoroughly under clean running water. Hang it up and let it dry completely before using it again.

You should replace your nasal cannula once a month. The rubber will begin to degrade and have tiny cracks, which will harbor bacteria and mold, which you definitely don't want to breathe in. Replacement nasal cannulas are inexpensive, and you should buy several of them at once to stock up.

One issue you might run into, is dryness and irritation in your nasal passages. This is common during the winter, and for people who need to use oxygen therapy for many hours at a time, and/or on a high setting. This is where a small humidifier bottle would be useful. Many of the higher powered concentrators have a humidifier that can be used with them.

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.

5 thoughts on “How to Use a Cannula with a Oxygen Concentrator”

  • m williams

    my husband has just been discharged from hospital with a face mask but has canulars also hes on high dosage 8 litres per minute Ive been told of a gel that you can administer in the nasal passage but don't know how to source it can any one help

    • Danielle Jason

      Thank you for your comment. We recommend reaching out to the patients' individual doctor for recommendations on nasal gels. Your doctor should be able to work with you to provide you with a solution to make that high dosage a little more comfortable. You can also review our blog on Preventing Dry Nose, Throat, and Mouth on Oxygen Therapy, here:

  • donald carvin

    Can't figure out how to put canulla in my nose. can you refer me to a site with a side view diagram showing position of round end to the face

    • Margaret Goodman

      I have passed your information on to the customer care team who will be able to best assist you. You may also contact them directly at 877-303-9289.

  • Andrew

    I have an oxygen concentrator at home. I was recently prescribed a medication that needs to be administered by nebulizer to which I don’t have and am waiting for delivery but it may take awhile. I was wondering if I could purchase an attachment for the concentrator so it could be used as a nebulizer while I wait for delivery of nebulizer. Any information would be appreciated as to I have a rare lung disease and just got approval from insurance of an experimental medication after months and now I’m left with the problem that I can not even administer the medication


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