Online since 2002 |   866-316-0162

Articles and News


Laura Castricone, CRT

If you or a loved one has been ordered to be on oxygen therapy, it’s important to understand how to properly use your oxygen and the things that need to be considered when oxygen is in use in the home.

First, oxygen is an essential element in our air that keeps us alive. Normal “ambient air” is approx. 21% oxygen. It is an odorless and colorless gas. Some individuals who have lung impairment will need what is called “supplemental oxygen”. Basically, the 21% oxygen in ambient air is not enough to keep a normal level of oxygen in the blood. In order to be appropriate for supplemental oxygen therapy, a doctor or practitioner will perform oxygen testing with a small device called a pulse oximeter. This shows how much oxygen is “saturated” in the bloodstream and is read as a percent...ideally it should be over 90% at all times. The testing, normally, should include a resting test, where your oxygen level is tested while you are sitting still but awake, and a walking or ambulation test which will test oxygen levels while you are walking or performing some sort of exertional task. Lastly, some patients will need to also have an “overnight” oxygen test (aka nocturnal oxygen test). This test is to determine if oxygen is needed while sleeping. A person that needs supplemental oxygen may be using it 3 different ways (when sitting, when moving around and when sleeping) and each way may be different (ie: 2 liters at rest, 4 liters with exertion, and 1 liter with sleep). Your doctor or practitioner will determine the amount of oxygen needed in each scenario and will write a prescription with the amount needed (liter flow) and when it should be used (at rest/exertion/sleep). Because oxygen is considered a “drug” it is regulated by the FDA and needs a prescription to dispense.

What is Medical Oxygen?

Oxygen for medical use is not the same as oxygen for industrial use. Industrial use oxygen contains many impurities. Medical grade oxygen is available in liquid form (used mostly in institutions), compressed gas (cylinders), and via an oxygen concentrator which uses sieve beds to sift out the nitrogen and trace elements in ambient air and deliver a high concentration of oxygen. In the home, you will mostly see concentrators and cylinders. We rarely see liquid oxygen being used in the home as it is costly and inconvenient. Oxygen concentrators are also known as stationary concentrators come in a variety of liter flows and sizes. They are large and bulky and made for home use. It is important to know your prescription and to use the oxygen exactly as it is prescribed; too little can cause you to have sustained low oxygen levels which can lead to many health issues and too much can be dangerous as well.

What to consider when on Home Oxygen Therapy?

So, a stationary concentrator will stay in the home...but what do I do if I need to go out?

If you are prescribed to use oxygen when you are walking around or performing tasks, and you are still fairly active outside of your home, you may want to consider a portable oxygen concentrator (aka POC) or a refillable oxygen cylinder system. These two systems allow the individual on oxygen therapy to remain active. Your doctor or practitioner can help you to determine which system would suit you best. Some of the systems on the market utilize a “pulse dose” regulator to deliver a pulse of oxygen to the patient...but only on inspiration. This can be a problem for people who require high liter flows (POC’S have limitations), for those who cannot generate enough negative pressure to open the valve to get the dose of oxygen delivered to them, and for those who just cannot keep their blood oxygen levels in the safe range while using it. POC’s run on a battery so it is important to manage the charging of the unit so that you do not run out of oxygen while you are away from home. Refillable cylinder systems have limitations as well. If you plan on being out of your home for an extended period of time, you will need to fill and take with you several full cylinders to replace as you deplete one. Some refillable cylinders also utilize the "pulse dose” regulator. Cylinders need to be stored lying down to eliminate the possibility of them falling over and rupturing.

Avoid Tripping and Falling

Other things to consider when on home oxygen therapy: tripping and falling. Most oxygen systems will use a 25foot or 50foot length of connecting tubing so that the patient can reach most of the rooms in the house. For the elderly, the vision impaired and the gait impaired this can pose a hazard. Falls within the home are some of the most common injuries to this group. It is recommended that you use the shortest length of tubing needed to reach the major rooms in the house. Pick up all throw rugs or any obstacles in hallways or on stairs. Encourage the oxygen user to “gather” the tubing as they walk and keep it up away from their feet. For our sight-impaired individuals, you can try colored tubing (purple or green) so that it is easier to see against the floor. For those in wheelchairs, be aware that the oxygen tubing can get caught in the wheels and become “kinked”. If the tubing is kinked, there will be no flow from the tubing. If you are ever in doubt that there is flow coming from the tubing, simply put the prongs from your nasal cannula into a glass of water and observe for bubbles. If there are bubbles, you have flow.

Use "Oxygen In Use" Sign Board

Oxygen will not spontaneously combust, but it will support a flame. What does that mean? No oxygen system will just burst into flames; however, if a flame is introduced to the oxygen flow it will get bigger and hotter. When oxygen is used in the home it is recommended that an “Oxygen In Use” sign be posted on your outside doors. This is for several reasons. It is to let anyone that is entering the home know that smoking is not allowed in this home and to let the local fire dept (in the case of a fire) know that there is an oxygen system in the home and it needs to be located and removed so that it does not cause the fire to get bigger. It is also recommended that you do not wear your oxygen while cooking (especially with gas or propane) and that you keep at least 5 feet away from any open flames (fireplace, candles, etc). Remember...a fire needs three things to get going and keep going: oxygen, fuel, and a spark

Using oxygen in this day and age is easier than it has ever been in the past. There are many systems that can be used and it’s important to try and match the system you are using to your lifestyle. Remember, oxygen is a drug and should be treated just like all of your other medications. If you ever have any questions about your oxygen therapy, contact your doctor or practitioner, if you have any questions about your oxygen system, contact your oxygen provider.


Author Profile: Laura Castricone, Respiratory Therapist

Laura Castricone (Certified Respiratory Therapist)

My name is Laura Castricone and I am a Certified Respiratory Therapist. I have been practicing in the state of Connecticut since 1992. I have worked in several aspects of respiratory care including sleep medicine, critical care, rehab, and home care. I earned my respiratory certification at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, CT. Prior to becoming an RT, I attended the University of Connecticut pursuing a degree in English but left Uconn in my junior year to work with my father in the restaurant business. I stayed with him for over a dozen years. An education, by the way, that can never be bought! Once I married and had children, the restaurant business no longer fit my lifestyle. When my children were one and two years old, I decided to go back to school and that is where my career in respiratory care began. This career has been very rewarding and I have been blessed to meet some extraordinary people along the way. I grew up in Waterbury, CT, and now live in Litchfield County, CT with my husband and our crazy Jack Russell terrier, Hendrix. My hobbies include antiquing, gardening, writing plays, and painting miniature paintings.



Disclaimer: All content found on our website, including images, videos, infographics and text were created solely for informational purposes. Our content should never be used for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment of any medical conditions. Content shared on our websites is not meant to be used as a substitute for advice from a certified medical professional. Reliance on the information provided on our website as a basis for patient treatment is solely at your own risk. We urge all our customers to always consult a physician or a certified medical professional before trying or using a new medical product.


HPFY Laura Castricone, CRT

Laura Castricone, CRT

LinkedIn Profile My name is Laura Castricone and I am a Certified Respiratory Therapist. I have been practicing in the state of Connecticut since 1992. I have worked in several aspects of respiratory ...

Continue reading

Trending Articles

Enteral Feeding: The What, When, and How

Shweta Chaubey

When traditional oral intake is not feasible, enteral feeding comes into play. It supports nutritional needs of individuals recovering from an injury or surgery. Dive into this informative article and learn what, when, why, and how of enteral feeding and ensure optimal patient care.

Using the Carpal Solution Carpal Tunnel Wrist Support

Kevin Cleary

Looking for a non-invasive option to manage carpal tunnel symptoms? Experience relief from constant tingling and pain with this Carpal Solution Wrist Support. Read this article to know about the unique features and benefits of this wrist support brace designed to deal with CTS and find why it is one of the most reliable wrist braces available on the market.

Top 5 Best Reviewed Nebulizers of 2023

Kevin Cleary

Need an effective and affordable nebulizer? Look no further, in this article we offer 5 of our best reviewed nebulizers that are loved by our customers. Click to read more and find the perfect nebulizer for all your respiratory needs.

10 Best Overnight Adult Diapers

Shweta Chaubey

Worried about nighttime leaks? Say goodbye to leakage with our ten best overnight adult diapers and wake up refreshed and dry.

Five Best Cervical Traction Devices of 2023

Taikhum Sadiq

Neck pain can wreak havoc on your otherwise healthy life. Traction device improves your cervical health and overall well-being. Read more to find our best cervical traction devices designed to curb the stiffness and discomfort of cervical muscles.