One of the best ways to celebrate America is by taking in the fantastic sights at its National Parks. But for those that require oxygen, visiting these prized locations may have just been unobtainable. Now, with portable oxygen concentrators, oxygen therapy users can visit any of the National Parks across the nation.
Pick the Right Park
There are about 60 national parks across 28 states and some American territories, the most famous of which are Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains and Yosemite, among others. Because these parks are scattered across the country, you can narrow down your search to a more accessible location. However, flying with a portable oxygen concentrator has become a lot easier; if you’re on the East Coast and would like to see the Grand Canyon, it is possible provided you have the right machine.
Top 10 Visited National Parks - Location and Annual Visitors *
- Great Smoky Mountains: Tennessee,North Carolina; 11 million visitors annually
- Grand Canyon National Park: Arizona; 6.2 million visitors annually
- Zion National Park: Utah; 4.5 million visitors annually
- Rocky Mountain National Park: Colorado; 4.4 million visitors annually
- Yosemite National Park: California; 4.3 million visitors annually
- Yellowstone: Wyoming, Montana, Idaho; 4.1 million visitors annually
- Acadia National Park: Maine; 3.5 million visitors annually
- Olympic National Park: Washington; 3.4 million visitors annually
- Grand Tenton National Park: Wyoming; 3.3 million visitors annually
- Glacier National Park: Montana; 3.3 million visitors annually
* Recreational visitors from 2017.
There is one other important consideration, however: altitude. Some parks have sky-high scenery, but high altitudes do not combine well with lung conditions. At high altitudes, the air is thinner and contains less oxygen, which contributes to altitude sickness; those with pre-existing conditions should see their doctors and ask for advice before planning a vacation to these locations. In addition to checking with your doctor, you will also want to make sure that your portable oxygen solution is rated for the altitude that you will be exploring.
Pick the Right Time
Once you’ve picked your park, you can select the season you’ll see it in. You and your doctor know what kind of weather makes breathing more difficult, so it’s important to choose wisely. If intense summer heat prohibits you from stepping outside, the summer season may not be the best time to visit a park in the southeastern area of the U.S. (e.g., the Grand Canyon).
Keep the temperatures in mind for your portable oxygen concentrator, too, as they all have minimum and maximum operating temperatures. The Inogen One G3, for example, can only be used between 41–104 degrees Fahrenheit. Some machines may have operating temperatures that are below those thresholds, so it’s important to reference your machine’s manual.
Bring Extra Supplies… and Then Some More
The FAA and some airlines may have requirements when bringing your portable oxygen concentrator on the plane, usually regarding batteries. Bring the required amount, and then pack an extra. Running out of charged batteries on your once-in-a-lifetime adventure can mean you’ll be stuck inside for the day or always worrying about how much power you’ve got left while out and about. Always keep an extra battery charging back at your hotel to ensure you have one ready to go.
Also, bring an extra nasal cannula and tubing. Don’t forget your carrying case and any other accessory item you may need while away.
Prepare for the Trip
Before you go on your outdoor adventure, make sure that your body is prepared for the trip. If you’re planning to explore on foot, make sure that you can endure the journey. Map out the routes you’d like to take and see if you can walk the same distance at home.
Even if you’re physically prepared, always make sure you have a backup plan. Ensure that there are sufficient shuttles to take you where you’d like to go; some national parks do not get any cell service, so you shouldn’t rely on using your phone.
Talk to Your Doctor
Before you book any tickets, visit your doctor and explain in detail what you’d like to do, where and when. Your doctor will be able to tell you whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, and you can ask for advice on using your portable oxygen concentrator at higher altitudes or in warmer weather.
Visiting the U.S. national parks can be an amazing adventure, and those who require supplemental oxygen don’t have to miss out.