How do I administer oxygen?

Oxygen is generally administered via nasal cannula or mask for home oxygen therapy or supplemental oxygen. The oxygen supplied through the delivery device comes from compressed or liquid oxygen or an oxygen concentrator. To administer oxygen therapy, you’ll need to become familiar with which oxygen source and delivery device prescribed to you by your doctor.

First, understand your oxygen prescription.

Before administering oxygen to yourself or someone close to you, ensure you understand the oxygen prescription. Doctors generally prescribe in “liters per minute (lpm),” like “2 lpm,” for example.

A prescription written in 2 lpm is straightforward when using oxygen tanks or continuous-flow oxygen concentrators. However, pulse dose concentrators provide settings that do not equate to liters per minute. For example, 2 lpm does equal a setting of 2 on most oxygen concentrators. If using a pulse dose oxygen concentrator, ensure you understand your oxygen requirements so you know which setting to use.

For questions about the settings and oxygen output, check the concentrator user manual, ask your healthcare team, or contact your oxygen supply company.

How do I administer oxygen?

Choose your oxygen delivery method.

The doctor can help you decide which oxygen delivery method will work best for your needs.
  • Compressed oxygen: Compressed oxygen is stored in cylinders, also known as tanks.
  • Liquid oxygen: Liquid oxygen is stored as a cold liquid in a thermos-like container.
  • Oxygen concentrators: Oxygen concentrators use surrounding air to filter out other gases and provide you with medical-grade oxygen. Since concentrators “make” their oxygen, they never run out, unlike tanks or liquid oxygen canisters.

Set up your equipment.

Once you have your required oxygen delivery device, follow your device’s instructions for setting up and turning on the machine. Always read the manual for safety precautions. Attach your nasal cannula or mask. Although most people with supplemental oxygen wear a nasal cannula, some require a mask. Your doctor can tell you which one to use.

Turn on the oxygen to your prescribed setting.

If using continuous flow oxygen therapy, set your device to the prescribed liters per minute. For pulse dose delivery, set your unit to the prescribed setting. Check to ensure oxygen flows from your nasal cannula or mask, and place it on your face.

Tips for Oxygen Safety:

Follow these tips to use oxygen therapy safely.

  • Never smoke while wearing oxygen, and stay away from anyone smoking.
  • Keep your oxygen away from open flames or extreme heat.
  • Don’t cook with gas while wearing oxygen.
  • Avoid using electrical appliances (hair dryers, curling irons, etc.) while wearing oxygen.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby.
Also, never change your oxygen settings without consulting your doctor. Medical-grade oxygen is considered a drug. Like all drugs, too much or too little oxygen can have dangerous health effects. If you have difficulty breathing, seek medical attention right away.
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