The need for oxygen therapy is typically determined by a healthcare professional after thorough evaluation of your medical conditions. However, here are some common signs and symptoms that may suggest the need for 02 therapy. If you experience any of the following, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional for proper assessment.
• Shortness of breath: If you are a current or former smoker who has either a chronic cough, wheeze, frequent or lengthy colds, frequent sputum, and/or shortness of breath while doing everyday chores, you may want to consider talking to your family doctor or respiratory therapist.
• Chronic Respiratory Conditions: Conditions like COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder), emphysema, or severe asthma can lead to low oxygen levels and may require oxygen therapy to improve breathing.
• Low Blood Oxygen Levels: Your healthcare provider may measure your blood oxygen saturation (Sp02) using a pulse oximeter. If your oxygen levels consistently fall below a certain threshold, typically below 90%, it may indicate a need for supplemental oxygen. A Health Canada approved Oximeter can be purchased at any Med Supply/Pharmacy if you are interested in keeping track of your own 02 levels at home.
• Sleep Apnea: Some individuals with severe sleep apnea may require oxygen therapy, especially if other treatments like continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) are insufficient. Your family doctor would need to order this test for you, and it would be administered at your local hospital.
• Cyanosis: Bluish or grayish discoloration of the skin, lips, or nail beds may be a sign of inadequate oxygen levels. This symptom is usually a sign of severe oxygen deprivation, and you should seek out medical assistance immediately.
• Fatigue and Weakness: If you experience extreme fatigue, weakness, confusion, or difficulty concentrating, it may be related to low oxygen levels.
• Ankle Swelling: Inadequate oxygen can put a strain on your heart so it can’t pump blood as effectively. This can cause swelling of the ankles and feet.
Using Oxygen safely in your home: Tips and Tricks
Having Oxygen in your home is an amazing lifeline, one that many people depend upon and utilize daily. Being aware of the potential hazards with home oxygen therapy can ensure your safety and the safety of others. If you are new to home oxygen, or have been using it for some time, these general tips are vital to follow when dealing with highly compressed gas.
• Store your ambulatory oxygen tanks are upright and in a well-ventilated area.
• Ensure that your tanks are never covered.
• Keep your tanks away from direct sunlight.
• As we approach dry, winter months you may want to consider using a humidifier or an over-the-counter saline nasal spray to ease the discomfort of extra dry irritated nasal passages or sore throats caused by low humidity.
• Avoid Vaseline/Petroleum products. These products are extremely flammable and can cause severe burns. Try using a water-soluble lubricant instead.
• Check your nasal prongs and tubing regularly for cracks. It is recommended to replace your tubing every 2 to 4 weeks. If you have had a cold and once your symptoms are gone, you should also change the nasal prongs/tubing.
• Absolutely NO SMOKING. Place ‘Oxygen in Use’ signs in visible areas.
• Keep a distance of at least 5-6 feet from electrical appliances (such as curling iron, blow dryer etc…) and gas/electric stoves.
• Always turn your oxygen off when not in use.
• Be aware of how much oxygen is left in your tank and always have back ups ready for use.
• Avoid trip Hazards: Ensure that oxygen tubing is not stretched across walkways or under carpets.
• Do not use bedding or clothes made of wool, nylon or synthetic fabrics as these materials tend to produce static electricity. To decrease the chance of static electricity, consider using cotton fabrics.
• Be sure to have an all-purpose fire extinguisher handy and be familiar with how to operate it.
*Stay tuned for Part two, where we will discuss the safe transportation of oxygen and hear from a Serving Hands Client who has experience with Home Oxygen!