Respiratory Therapist Knowledge Base

  • What Is a Respiratory Therapist?

    If you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, or any other respiratory disease, chances are you will receive health care from a respiratory therapist at some point in your life. However, respiratory therapists are not well-known outside of major medical centers such as hospitals or skilled nursing facilities.

    In this article, we will help you understand what a respiratory therapist does and how they can contribute to your health care plan, particularly if you suffer from a respiratory disease.

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  • Can Oxygen Therapy Help Treat Severe Headaches?

    Here, we have a question from one of our readers about using oxygen therapy to treat migraines.

    Reader Question:

    "I get migraines once in a while. Someone I know suggested that I look into using oxygen therapy to treat them. If I buy a supplemental oxygen concentrator online, will I be able to use it to get rid of my migraines if I use it on a regular basis?"

    It's true that oxygen therapy has been known to be able to treat and prevent migraines and cluster headaches. Talk to your doctor about whether or not he or she thinks this might be a good route for you to take, since it takes a very high concentration of medical grade oxygen to effectively prevent migraines.

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  • Ask a Respiratory Therapist? Do I Need an Oxygen Concentrator?

    Not everyone with a chronic lung disease will need to use oxygen therapy. Not all those who need oxygen therapy need to use an oxygen concentrator. An oxygen concentrator isn't the only way to get oxygen therapy, since oxygen tanks can sometimes be the better option. However, in most cases, oxygen concentrators are much more convenient, and will save you a lot of money in the long run.

    Oxygen therapy is necessary when not enough oxygen can be breathed in by the lungs, and transferred to the blood stream. If enough of the lungs are damaged, it can cause low blood oxygen levels and an increase in carbon dioxide, which cannot be properly exhaled. Oxygen therapy increases blood oxygen levels to normal, and allows for the carbon dioxide to be expelled properly.

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  • Ask a Respiratory Therapist? - How Often Should a Unit be Serviced?

    An oxygen concentrator is a sophisticated piece of machinery, and like all other machines, it will need to be serviced regularly. Luckily, major maintenance outside of cleaning and changing of filters doesn't need to be done very often. Many modern oxygen concentrators are for the most part, low maintenance. Here are the basics of how and when they should be serviced.

    Dirty or dusty environments will cause the need for service quicker than if the air around it was always clean. Animal dander, pollen, everyday dust, and outside pollution will get caught in the filters, requiring it to be cleaned or changed sooner.

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  • Are You Getting Enough Oxygen from Your Portable Machine?

    Your doctor has prescribed a certain dosage of oxygen, determined by exactly how much you need on a regular basis to stay healthy. This is a very important number to stick to – the setting at which you need to be using your portable oxygen machine, how often you need to use it, and for how long.

    Deviating from these dosages can be dangerous, whether you end up using too little or too much. Using too much can be damaging to your lungs, while not getting enough will cause serious health problems, because your body isn't getting the oxygen it needs. You must stick to your prescribed oxygen, because it should be treated just like any other medication.

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  • COPD and Breathing

    My breathing has gotten really bad from COPD. I have Emphysema and it seems t be getting worse all the time. Am I just out of luck as far a breathing again?

    Hi, Jim!

    I guess the obvious question for me to ask is Have you talked to your doctor about this yet?

    If your symptoms are getting worse, maybe your doctor needs to reevaluate the medications that you're on. Are you taking any corticosteroids, like Advair or Flovent, on a daily basis? Medications like those need to be taken every day in order to be effective.

    Also, have you considered going to a Pulmonary Rehab program? If not, that might a good thing to talk to your doctor about's basically supervised exercise, on oxygen, with a Respiratory Therapist.

    And if you're a smoker, STOP! You'd be surprised how many COPD patients still smoke!
    There are little things, like the above, that can help with your symptoms. Only your doctor knows the extent of your COPD, so I would definitely recommend going to see him/her to discuss your concerns.

    Lori Peters, RRT
    Registered Respiratory Therapist | American Medical Sales & Repair

  • What is the NHOPA?

    The National Home Oxygen Patients Association (NHOPA) is an organization designed to provide essential information to supplementary oxygen users. The group was established in 1990 and is managed by actual oxygen users, who form the company’s Board of Directors.

    One of the many undertakings of the NHOPA was a decade long involvement with the U.S. Department of Transportation to clarify and standardize the use of FAA approved oxygen units on board aircraft. Evolving from that association, the NHOPA also worked with the Transportation Security Administration to ensure that its security checkpoint guards are properly familiarized and trained with regards to Portable Oxygen Concentrators.

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  • Summertime and the Breathing is Not-so-Easy

    As most of us already know, the typical symptoms of a COPD exacerbation include shortness of breath and a phlegm-producing, productive cough. Many people find that their symptoms worsen in the winter months due to the cold, but oftentimes the summer months can bring about flare ups, as well.

    With the summer months come heat, humidity, allergens and air pollution. Any of these factors may increase one’s risk of a COPD exacerbation!

    When the temperature outside rises our bodies use additional energy in order to cool ourselves down. With this increased energy need comes an increase in the amount of oxygen that our bodies require. As a result, our blood oxygen levels may drop, which makes us feel short of breath.
    Humidity might also have an adverse effect on one’s COPD by adding “resistance” to the air we breathe. Airborne allergens also have a tendency to increase with the extra moisture in the air. Smog and air pollution have the potential to be irritants or triggers, also. Any of these factors may increase one’s risk of a flare up.

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  • Ask a Respiratory Therapist? How’s the Air Up There?

    Are you or a loved one planning a trip to Colorado to visit family or go skiing over the Holidays? Don’t forget the oxygen! While the percentage of oxygen in the Colorado air is actually the same as sea level, the concentration of oxygen molecules in the air is diluted and makes the air we breathe "thinner."

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  • Ask a Respiratory Therapist? - What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

    Ask a Respiratory Therapist?

    By Lori Peters, RRT, AMSR Respiratory Therapist

     Question:  What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

    Answer: Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a common disorder that involves pauses, or periods of apnea, while someone sleeps.  These pauses between breaths might last from 10 seconds to a few minutes. The severity of apnea is measured in terms of the number of times the apnea occurs over the course of an hour; this can be anywhere from 5 to 30 times or more. The apneic period ends when the patient takes his or her next breath, oftentimes with a loud snorting sound. Sleep apnea results in low nighttime blood oxygen levels and daytime sleepiness, due to the restless sleep from the night before.

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