Oxygen Concentrator and Oxygen Therapy Safety

Despite the positive health effects you will get from using an oxygen concentrator or compressed oxygen, there are still some risks and dangers that need to be considered. This is a refresher, since your doctor or medical supply provider will go over all the safety precautions with you, and help you set up at home.

Dryness and infection in airways. You might experience a dryness in your nasal passages or your throat while using your oxygen concentrator or oxygen machine. You can even develop dried balls of mucus in your airways, which are dangerous because they can block your airflow.

Oxygen concentrators come with a built in humidifier that draws moisture from a reservoir that you have to refill. You should only use pure, distilled water in the reservoir to avoid build-up of calcium and bacteria. Regardless, you should clean out the reservoir at least once a week with hot water and a mild detergent to prevent bacterial or mold growth, which will cause a respiratory infection.

If you are still experiencing a drying discomfort in your mouth, throat, nasal passages or lungs, run a humidifier in the room with you while you are receiving your oxygen therapy. You will need to keep this clean as well, by scrubbing it out about every 2 weeks and rinsing it out thoroughly. Again, you should only use distilled water in your room humidifier.

Risk of combustion. Despite what you may have heard, oxygen itself is non-flammable and will not explode entirely on its own. Now, if your oxygen comes into close contact with a fire, even a very small fire such as a candle, it can quickly help fuel the fire and cause it to get out of control.

Stay at least 5 feet away from heat or open flames while you are using your oxygen, that includes people who are smoking or using a gas operated stove. It's generally a bad idea to be around smokers, anyway. Put up a sign by the entrances of your home to warn people that you are using oxygen therapy.

Stay away from flammable chemicals while you are using an oxygen concentrator. Store your machine in an open room with plenty of ventilation and make sure it is completely off and unplugged while you aren't using it. Keep any oxygen tanks in an open room and without anything on top of them or crowding them.

Other Dangers and Tips

Liquid oxygen in tanks is frozen at a very low temperature. It's so cold, that if it comes into contact with your skin, it will cause extreme irritation and burns. This can happen while you are refilling a tank with liquid oxygen, and you aren't following the proper procedure in doing so.

Anyone using oxygen therapy should make sure they are drinking enough water and staying hydrated. This goes double for someone who is ill or getting over being sick, or someone who has just underwent surgery and is home bound. Be sure you are getting enough water and other liquids (keep caffeinated beverages to a minimum) by filling a 2 liter bottle or pitcher with cold water each day and drinking from that.

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.

10 thoughts on “Oxygen Concentrator and Oxygen Therapy Safety”

  • Judypenn

    My sister thinks she can smoke with a concentrator machine tube in her nose

    • Rick

      My sister in law did the same thing years ago after surgery in the hospital, when hospitals used to allow smoking in private rooms. With the tube in her nose she would smoke through her mouth. Funny back then but today, understanding the dangers NOT.

  • Hamdan

    Doea this oxygen concentrator dangerous to the flame , fire in the kitchen

    • Margaret Goodman
      Margaret Goodman March 6, 2018 at 6:44 am

      The oxygen that comes out of the tubing would be considered an accelerant. I would use caution around an open flame.

  • Stef

    I’ve just discovered that my husband has been lighting up a cigarette while on his Oxygen Concentrator for the last 3 years. He insists that since nothing has happened that it is safe. Can you please respond with some advice that I can share with him to STOP.
    Is there less of a danger of fire/explosion if using an oxygen concentrator?
    Worried & at risk,

    • Margaret Goodman
      Margaret Goodman June 6, 2018 at 3:53 am

      Smoking is not recommended around the oxygen concentrator. It recommended that it be turned off and you smoke at least 10 feet away from the unit.

  • Paul Deichelbohrer
    Paul Deichelbohrer July 27, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    When I use my oxygen concentrator my lungs and/or bracial tubes get sore and then get infected. then, I develop sinus infection. What am I doing wrong?

    • Margaret Goodman
      Margaret Goodman August 2, 2018 at 6:36 am

      Unfortunately, this is something that we recommend that you speak with your doctor about. There may be some other underlying issue that you are dealing with.

  • Pam

    Can air quality around the concentrator, such as secondhand cigarette smoke from a neighboring apartment or dust mites contaminants, be filtered into an oxygen concentrator causing even more lung damage and trouble breathing? Also, my concentrator keeps sounding a low beep. What is the problem?

    • Margaret Goodman
      Margaret Goodman November 29, 2018 at 7:11 am

      The oxygen that you are breathing from your concentrator filters out everything but the oxygen. If you are however breathing from your mouth and not your nose you are going to be breathing anything that is in the air.

      For help with troublingshooting the beeping noise your concentrator is making please contact our customer care center at 877-303-9289. We look forward to helping you.


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