Oxygen therapy is a medical intervention that involves the administration of supplemental oxygen to individuals who have difficulty obtaining sufficient oxygen through natural breathing. The primary goal of oxygen therapy is to increase the concentration of oxygen inhaled by the patient, thereby improving the levels of oxygen in the blood and ensuring that the body’s tissues receive an adequate supply of oxygen.

There are various medical conditions that may lead to a reduced capacity to absorb or deliver oxygen, such as chronic respiratory diseases (e.g., chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD), pneumonia, heart failure, and certain sleep disorders. In these cases, oxygen therapy becomes necessary to support the body’s oxygen needs and alleviate symptoms associated with low oxygen levels.

Oxygen therapy can be administered through different devices, including:

Nasal Cannulas: Small tubes that deliver oxygen through the nostrils. They are commonly used for patients who need low to moderate levels of supplemental oxygen.

Oxygen Masks: Masks cover the nose and mouth, delivering a higher concentration of oxygen than nasal cannulas. Masks are often used when higher flow rates are required.

Oxygen Concentrators: Devices that extract oxygen from the surrounding air, concentrating it for delivery to the patient. These are often used for long-term oxygen therapy and can be stationary or portable.

Oxygen therapy helps improve the oxygenation of tissues and organs, supporting overall health and preventing complications associated with low oxygen levels, such as organ damage. It plays a crucial role in enhancing the quality of life for individuals with chronic respiratory and cardiovascular conditions.

Oxygen therapy is prescribed for individuals who have difficulty maintaining adequate oxygen levels in their blood through natural breathing. The need for oxygen therapy is often associated with various medical conditions that can impair the respiratory or cardiovascular systems. Some common situations and conditions that may warrant the use of oxygen therapy include:

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): COPD, including conditions like chronic bronchitis and emphysema, can lead to significant impairment of lung function, reducing the body’s ability to absorb oxygen. Oxygen therapy is often prescribed to improve oxygenation in individuals with advanced COPD.

Pneumonia: Infections of the lungs, such as pneumonia, can cause inflammation and fluid accumulation, compromising the efficiency of oxygen exchange. Oxygen therapy may be necessary to support patients during the recovery phase.

Heart Failure: In cases of heart failure, the heart may struggle to pump blood efficiently, leading to reduced oxygen delivery to the body’s tissues. Oxygen therapy can help compensate for this by increasing the oxygen content in the blood.

Severe Asthma: Individuals with severe asthma attacks may experience significant difficulty breathing and low oxygen levels. Oxygen therapy can provide immediate relief and support until other treatments take effect.

Interstitial Lung Disease: Various lung diseases that affect the interstitium (the tissue surrounding the air sacs) can result in reduced lung function, requiring supplemental oxygen to maintain adequate oxygen levels.

Sleep Apnea: Some individuals with sleep apnea experience intermittent interruptions in breathing during sleep, leading to drops in blood oxygen levels. Oxygen therapy may be used in conjunction with other treatments for sleep apnea.

Cystic Fibrosis: This genetic disorder affects the lungs and can lead to thickened mucus, making it challenging to breathe. Oxygen therapy may be part of the treatment plan for individuals with cystic fibrosis.

Injury or Surgery: After certain surgeries or traumatic injuries, individuals may experience difficulty breathing or reduced lung function, necessitating temporary oxygen therapy to support healing.

It’s important to note that the decision to initiate oxygen therapy is based on a thorough medical assessment, including measurements of blood oxygen levels (arterial blood gases or pulse oximetry). Healthcare professionals carefully evaluate each individual’s needs to determine the appropriate type and duration of oxygen therapy. The goal is to optimize oxygenation, alleviate symptoms, and improve overall quality of life for those with respiratory and cardiovascular conditions.

The amount of time you use O2 therapy will be based on your individual needs and unique symptoms, and your oxygen therapy prescription will be determined by your doctor based on that information. While some people only need oxygen treatment while participating in certain activities, like exercising or sleeping, other people need it more regularly. The good news is that using oxygen therapy for more than 15 hours a day increases survival in some patients. In fact, there are a number of oxygen therapy benefits, in addition to increasing life expectancy, that you could experience with supplemental oxygen in both the short and long term. Depending on the type of oxygen therapy delivery system you use, you may still be able to lead your regular, active life, even while receiving oxygen treatment. 

When used correctly, O2 therapy is both safe and effective. Like any prescription drug, however, side effects may occur. The following includes the most commonly reported side effects associated with supplemental oxygen and oxygen therapy equipment:

  • Nasal dryness – Supplemental oxygen can have a drying effect on your entire respiratory tract, starting with your nose and nasal passages. Using a moisturizing product such as AYR Saline Nasal Mist can help lubricate your nasal passages, making the therapy more comfortable.[1]
  • Skin irritation – Given that the prongs of the nasal cannula rest just inside the nares, it is not uncommon for the skin in that area to become red and irritated. Applying AYR Nasal Gel in and around the nasal openings may help soothe this highly sensitive area, providing protection against skin breakdown.[1]
  • Risk of fire – Although oxygen is not flammable in and of itself, it supports combustion, meaning that things burn more readily in its presence. Never smoke or allow anyone to smoke while using supplemental oxygen. Avoid using your oxygen near an open flame or other sources of heat such as an electric stove. Steer clear of personal care products that contain petroleum.[1]
  • Suppression of the drive to breathe – The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute reports that this type of therapy may suppress the drive to breathe in a select group of patients. This can generally be managed by adjusting your oxygen flow rate.[7] That said, it is important that you always follow your doctor’s orders regarding your oxygen prescription. Never increase your oxygen dose without first checking with your health care provider.

Oxygen therapy, when used as prescribed, can give you the energy you need to function better and be more physically active. Many people think that oxygen treatment means remaining tethered to a home oxygen machine or hauling around heavy oxygen canisters. Thankfully, with innovations in O2 therapy delivery systems, this doesn’t have to be your experience with supplemental oxygen. With portable oxygen concentrators from Inogen, it can be easy for you to maintain your freedom, mobility, and independence while using supplemental oxygen. Inogen was founded on the belief that supplemental oxygen treatment should not hold you back from living your life, so Inogen One portable oxygen concentrators were developed to help you get the oxygen treatment you need anytime, anywhere when powered by an AC or battery source. The Inogen One Systems are designed to allow you to continue living an active, healthy life at home or on the go, all while receiving your oxygen therapy. With Inogen portable oxygen concentrators, you can keep up with your daily routine around the house, without being stuck in one spot, or you can travel about town as you see fit, without having to pull heavy and cumbersome oxygen tanks behind you.

Even better, you never have to worry about running out of oxygen, as Inogen portable oxygen concentrators are designed to produce oxygen continuously by pulling and purifying air directly from the atmosphere, no refills required. As long as you have power via your rechargeable battery or an AC or DC power source, you have an infinite supply of oxygen for as long as you need it, wherever you go. Additionally, our oxygen concentrators make less noise than the average quiet library.

Portable, compact, and quiet, your Inogen One portable oxygen concentrator will not get in the way of your life. You can maintain an active social life and continue to enjoy activities in and out of your home, all while receiving your oxygen therapy benefits. If you need oxygen therapy, contact us to find out how oxygen treatment with Inogen oxygen concentrators may improve your quality of life. Talk to your doctor about how Inogen can help you with your O2 therapy today.

Shortness of breath is often the first sign that someone will require oxygen therapy. However, it can also be a sign of other problems, so it is helpful to be familiar with other signs of low blood oxygen levels. If you or someone you love is experiencing any of these symptoms, especially in conjunction with shortness of breath, seek medical help:[5]

  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • High blood pressure
  • Lack of coordination
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sense of euphoria
  • Visual changes

Many people wonder, “What is oxygen administration and how is it delivered?” Oxygen administration is simply another term for supplemental oxygen, and those oxygen treatments can be delivered via four different methods.[2]

  • Compressed oxygen tanks: This is what most people picture when they think of supplemental oxygen. Oxygen therapy supplied via compressed oxygen is often the least expensive in the short run; however, the tanks are heavy and awkward to carry, and they require regular refills or replacement.
  • Liquid oxygen: Liquid oxygen is oxygen that has been cooled to such a low temperature that it becomes liquid. As a liquid, it takes up less space, which makes it easier to keep more oxygen on hand in a lighter tank than compressed oxygen. The tanks are still quite large and require regular refills and maintenance since liquid oxygen evaporates. Liquid oxygen is also more expensive than compressed oxygen.
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy: Hyperbaric O2 therapy involves breathing 100% oxygen inside a special chamber with higher atmospheric pressure. The increased air pressure allows the lungs to take in more oxygen than normal, improving the rate of oxygenation. It is commonly used for decompression sickness (which can occur when scuba diving), as well as for other severe infections, slow-healing wounds or in cases of air bubbles in the blood vessels.
  • Oxygen concentrators: Oxygen concentrators are markedly different from other oxygen therapy delivery systems in that they pull in the surrounding air, compressing and purifying it, to provide oxygen-rich air to patients. Because oxygen concentrators use the surrounding air, they can provide an endless supply of oxygen as long as they have power. This means that patients do not have to worry about managing refills or using up their supplemental oxygen supply. Moreover, portable oxygen concentrators are small and lightweight, allowing patients to travel easily with their oxygen treatment so that they can continue to participate in their daily activities without having to worry about managing awkward tanks.

Under the careful observation of a doctor, a patient can remain on oxygen therapy as long as necessary. Some patients only need oxygen treatment for a very short time to improve a temporary hypoxemic condition, like patients with asthma. Patients with chronic lung diseases like COPD, however, may need to remain on oxygen therapy for the remainder of their lives. How long each individual patient will require oxygen therapy depends on their condition, their overall health and their ability to participate in other therapeutic measures. Patients who are able to do pulmonary rehabilitation, for example, may be able to reduce the amount of oxygen therapy they need or the frequency with which they need it[6]. Each patient’s health care team will perform a number of tests and take careful stock of your medical history and background to determine how long they will require O2 therapy.