Oxygen therapy can be used to treat a number of different conditions, but in any case, oxygen therapy is used when not enough oxygen is being absorbed by the tissues of the body through the lungs and the bloodstream. The condition of not having an adequate amount of oxygen in the blood is referred to as hypoxemia. The most common diseases that have an effect on the level of oxygen in the blood are COPD (Chronic Obstructed Pulmonary Disease), asthma and cystic fibrosis.
If you are prescribed oxygen therapy, it was because you can't get enough oxygen to your bloodstream because of an illness or injury, and it would benefit you to be administered a pure amount of oxygen for a certain amount of time, and at a certain flow amount. Your doctor will determine exactly how much oxygen you need and prescribe it to you. This is why it's so important for you to not change the the settings on your oxygen at any time.
Oxygen Therapy Devices
If you are prescribed regular oxygen therapy, you will be able to use it at home with an oxygen machine that uses tanks of compressed oxygen, or an oxygen concentrator. Compressed oxygen can be less expensive at first, but the delivery of oxygen tanks can become expensive in the long run, because you would need to continually have it delivered to keep using your prescribed oxygen. If you need continuous oxygen therapy, or if you have to use it for many hours out of the day, this can cost a lot of money over time and become inconvenient.
Another alternative is an oxygen concentrator, which takes in the air around it to filter out the other gases in the air besides oxygen, so you can breathe in a much higher concentration of the gas that your body needs. It doesn't require any refills, since it uses the oxygen in the air around you. These machines might be more expensive initially, but will save you a significant amount of money in the long run. Oxygen concentrators can be stationary and kept in the home, or portable and more suitable for travel.
Things You Might Encounter and How to Avoid Them
One of the main complaints from people who use oxygen therapy, is that it can be hard to get used to and your throat or nasal passages can become dry from the concentrated flow of air. The feeling of the cannula or mask on your face can feel strange at first and can take some getting used to.
To prevent an irritation, make sure you are getting nasal cannulas that are big enough so that they don't shift around in your nostrils. This can also be dangerous because if they slip out while you are asleep, you won't get the amount of oxygen you should be getting. You will also need to clean your cannula at least once a week, which will prevent you from getting sick and ensure that they are more comfortable.
In addition to the humidifier that is built into your concentrator, if you are using one, you can add more moisture to the air around you by putting a humidifier in the room with you. You might find that you only need to do this at night, or during the winter.