What Is Oxygen Therapy and When Would I Need It?

HBOT hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber tank in hopsital medical center clinic.

A normal pair of healthy lungs help humans take in more than six million breaths in one year. Without our lungs, we wouldn’t be able to laugh, chat or sing. Yet there are over eight million Americans who suffer from lung diseases that make these simple acts difficult.

If you are one of these suffering Americans, you might have heard of a medical treatment called oxygen therapy. You can read more here on the science of this treatment process. Follow this guide so you can bring more singing and laughing back into your life.

What Is Oxygen Therapy?

When you breathe in Oxygen, it moves through your lungs and bloodstream and helps your cells exchange Carbon Dioxide for Oxygen. Carbon dioxide is a waste gas and is removed from your bloodstream when you exhale. Oxygen is vital to helping us eliminate these waste gases and protect our bodies from toxic substances.

Oxygen also helps our lungs filter out foreign particles when we inhale polluted or contaminated air. Our natural reaction to expel these foreign particles is to cough or sneeze.

Oxygen therapy is a treatment that uses specific devices to directly deliver oxygen gas to patients who can’t breathe in enough oxygen on their own. Doctors can prescribe Oxygen therapy for limited or indefinite periods of time. Oxygen therapy can be administered as a home treatment, in a hospital or other medical facility.

How to Get Oxygen

There are various instruments that patients can use to increase their oxygen levels. One common device is a face mask ( called nonrebreather masks.) Patients can also use tubes resting inside their nostrils (called nasal cannula.)

Both masks and tubes are connected to special tanks that store oxygen that comes in different forms. These forms include oxygen gas or liquid. Masks and tubes can also be attached to another appliance called the portable oxygen generator.

Both liquid and gas oxygen is stored in compressed, tanks. These tanks also have oxygen-conserving mechanisms so that oxygen supplies last longer. These tanks can also come in portable sizes weighing between three and twenty pounds.

Oxygen generators weigh about 50 pounds and run on batteries or electricity. These machines also filter out gases and other impurities that invade Oxygen. A portable Oxygen generator can filter the surrounding air inside each room in a house and send purified air back to the patient.

Another form of therapy is called Hyperbaric oxygen therapy. This therapy treatment has patients inhale pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber or room which increases the oxygen levels delivered to their body tissue. This treatment will often be used to treat serious infections, wounds or air bubbles found in a patient’s blood vessel.

Patients That Need Oxygen Therapy

Patients that need oxygen therapy all have what’s called a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD.) COPD refers to many classifications of lung diseases. These diseases include:

• Asthma;
• Cystic Fibrosis;
• Pneumonia;
• Sleep Apnea; and
• Undersized lungs in newborns

Doctors will use an instrument called a pulse oximeter clip to read a patient’s oxygen saturation level. These clips can be easily attached to a patient’s finger or toe and don’t require a blood sample.

A blood oxygen level between 75 and 100 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) is a normal level. Oxygen levels at 60 mmHg or lower is a sign that the patient may need Oxygen therapy.

Once your doctor has measured your saturation levels, they will prescribe a flow rate for how much supplemental oxygen you need and how many times a day to apply your device. Some patients only require oxygen therapy when they sleep or exercise. Others may need to wear the device the entire day.

Symptoms of Low Oxygen Levels

Symptoms of low oxygen levels can include some of the following:

• Changes in skin color;
• Confusion;
• Coughing and wheezing;
• Fast Heart Rate;
• Rapid breathing; or
• Shortness of breath.

Many people also notice declining lung function as they age. oxygen therapy can help increase stamina, decrease shortness of breath and makes physical activity easier. Regular oxygen therapy can extend life expectancy for these patients as they enter their golden years.

Safety Tips for Oxygen Therapy

Oxygen is a combustible gas. If oxygen is located near any fuel or heaters, they will mix together quickly and create heat or flames.

That’s why it is safer to use oxygen tanks as far away from stoves or heaters as possible. Be sure to store your tank in areas where oxygen can move about freely around the device.

Don’t use alcohol or drugs while doing oxygen therapy. These substances will slow down your breathing. Talk to your doctor about any medications that they prescribed for you to be sure that these medications don’t create complications for using this equipment.

Next Steps

If you are experiencing any of those symptoms listed above, it may be time to talk to your doctor about whether oxygen therapy is right for you. If you have a history of Asthma or Cystic Fibrosis, it may also be the right time to discuss this effective home therapy treatment.

Schedule an appointment so that your physician can conduct an oxygen saturation level test. Be sure to ask them their views on portable tanks and oxygen generators. Since each device is effective, there may be room for both in your life.

Be sure to keep browsing our website for more helpful medical treatment advice. It’s time to bring the laughing and singing back into all of your days.

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