10% Off, Code: HPRAT, Exclusions Apply
Online since 2002 |   866-316-0162

Articles and News

Why Do Some People Need Supplemental Oxygen?

Why Do Some People Need Supplemental Oxygen?
Laura Castricone, CRT

Our lungs, when not damaged, need approx. 21% oxygen in order to keep the body alive and functioning properly. That is the amount contained in room air (aka ambient air). 

What is considered Supplemental Oxygen?

A pulse oximeter or a blood gas test can show what the oxygen level is in the bloodstream of a client.  If the test shows that the oxygen in the client’s bloodstream is less than 88%, they will be considered for supplemental oxygen. What that means is that the 21% is not enough to allow them to function properly.  The healthcare provider will determine how much supplemental oxygen the person will need depending on the situation (i.e.:at rest, exertion, during sleep). 

When we breathe in air, our lungs will extract the oxygen and utilize it for muscle movement, heart function, and brain function; just to name a few systems it services. Oxygen goes into our lungs and then passes through a membrane into the bloodstream. When the lungs have been damaged, the membranes are not fully intact and oxygen no longer passes easily into the bloodstream.  Just about every system in our body requires oxygen to function.  Low oxygen levels can lead to memory issues, heart failure, and death.  Anoxia refers to a condition where the body and brain do not receive enough oxygen to survive.  This can cause brain damage, coma, and ultimately death. If your body requires “supplemental oxygen” it is imperative that you follow the prescription that has been laid out by your healthcare provider.  If you modify the prescription yourself, you are at risk for many issues.  Oxygen is a drug and it is regulated by the FDA in this country. Taking more or less than has been prescribed for your condition can lead to a multitude of health risks. Unfortunately, many people do not realize that oxygen is a drug, and they use their oxygen as they want, not necessarily the way it was prescribed.

Why would a patient need Supplemental Oxygen?

Conditions that normally requires supplemental oxygen:

  • COPD
  • Emphysema
  • Post-Radiation Syndrome
  • Heart Disease(s)
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Pneumonia
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Severe Asthma and other conditions that are not as common.

Lung tissue that has been destroyed or altered from these conditions prevents the oxygen from easily transferring from the lungs into the bloodstream.  Depending on how long the lungs have undergone damage will depend on how they function.  The longer the “offense” to the lungs, the more damage that can be realized. 


How can I avoid lung problems?

  • Stop smoking
  • Hydrate and eat a healthy diet
  • Join a rehab to learn how to manage your disease and to learn how to exercise with lung disease so you can live a longer and healthier life.
  • Avoid “triggers” such as allergens, pollens, household dust, mineral dust, smoke, cold air, heavy pollution, high humidity, and illnesses.
  • Follow your healthcare providers orders when it comes to medications
  • Stay current on vaccines (ie: flu, pneumonia, Covid, shingles)
  • Avoid others when they are ill and stay out of public places (if possible) when the risk for the virus(es) is high.
  • If you are ordered to use oxygen, Never change your order unless you speak to your physician
  • Get as much exercise as you can!
  • Stay active and join groups that are focused on just lung diseases and clients who use oxygen (i.e.: Better Breathers Club, etc.)
  • Most importantly...do not be afraid to ask your healthcare provider questions!

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 ...

Read More

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.