An Ultimate Guide to Oxygen Therapy

An Ultimate Guide to Oxygen Therapy

Oxygen therapy, also called supplemental oxygen, is a treatment that provides you with extra oxygen to breathe in.

It is only available through a prescription from your healthcare provider. You may get it in the hospital, another medical setting using a portable oxygen concentrator, or at home using a home oxygen concentrator. Some people only need it for a short period of time, while others need it for long-term or chronic conditions.



Oxygen is necessary for human life and it is a gas found in the air we breathe. Oxygen therapy can help prevent or treat low oxygen levels in your blood, also known as hypoxemia or hypoxia, as it increases the amount of oxygen that reaches your lungs and bloodstream.


Uses of Oxygen Therapy

Oxygen therapy is prescribed for people who can’t get enough oxygen on their own. This is often because of lung conditions that prevent the lungs from absorbing oxygen, such as:


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

This is a lung disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs, making it hard to breathe. It is usually caused by long-term exposure to irritating gases or particles, such as cigarette smoke. It can cause coughing, wheezing, and mucus production1.



This is an infection that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs. The air sacs may fill with fluid or pus, causing coughing, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing. It can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or other organisms.



This is a condition that causes the airways to narrow, swell, and produce extra mucus. This can make breathing difficult and trigger coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. It can be triggered by allergens, irritants, exercise, stress, or infections.


Cystic fibrosis

This is a genetic disorder that affects the cells that produce mucus, sweat, and digestive juices. These fluids become thick and sticky, clogging the tubes and ducts in the lungs and other organs. This can cause lung infections, breathing problems, digestive issues, and other complications.


Lung cancer

This is a type of cancer that starts in the cells of the lungs. It can cause symptoms such as coughing, chest pain, weight loss, and shortness of breath.


Pulmonary fibrosis

This is a condition that causes scarring of the lung tissue. This makes the lungs stiff and less able to expand and contract. It can cause symptoms such as dry cough, fatigue, weight loss, and shortness of breath.


Sleep apnea

This is a disorder that causes pauses in breathing or shallow breathing during sleep. These pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes and may occur many times during the night. They can disrupt sleep quality and oxygen levels in the blood.

Oxygen therapy can also be used for other conditions that affect the heart, brain, or blood, such as heart failure, stroke, anemia, carbon monoxide poisoning, shock, and trauma.


Types of Oxygen Therapy

There are different types of oxygen therapy depending on your needs and preferences. The main types are:

  • Compressed oxygen gas, which is oxygen stored in a portable metal cylinders under high pressure.
  • Liquid oxygen is oxygen that is cooled until it becomes a liquid and is stored in a container that you can refill from a larger tank.
  • An oxygen concentrator is a device that takes air from the room and filters out the nitrogen and other gases, leaving only oxygen.
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a special type of oxygen therapy that involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber.


Pros and Cons

Here are some of the pros and cons of oxygen therapy:


  • It can improve your oxygen levels and prevent or treat hypoxemia or hypoxia.
  • It can relieve your shortness of breath, fatigue, headache, confusion, and other symptoms of low oxygen levels.
  • It can reduce your risk of complications from low oxygen levels, such as organ damage, infections, or death.


  • It can cause side effects, such as dryness or irritation of the nose, mouth, or throat; nosebleeds; skin rashes; ear pain; or headaches.
  • It can increase your risk of fire or explosion if you smoke or use flammable materials near the oxygen source.


When would I need oxygen therapy?

You may need oxygen therapy if you have a condition that affects your lungs or other organs and prevents you from getting enough oxygen from the air.

What is hypoxemia?

Hypoxemia describes very low oxygen levels in your blood.

How do I use oxygen therapy?

You can use oxygen therapy with different devices like a nasal cannula (a tube that fits into your nostrils), a face mask that covers your nose and mouth, an oxygen concentrator, a device that takes air from the room and filters out other gases, leaving only oxygen, an oxygen cylinder, or liquid oxygen (oxygen that is cooled until it becomes a liquid and is stored in a container).

What are the benefits of oxygen therapy?

Oxygen therapy can help improve your breathing, reduce symptoms, enhance your quality of life, and lower your risk of complications from low oxygen levels, such as organ damage, infections, or death.

How can you prevent side effects of oxygen therapy?

You can prevent or reduce side effects by using a humidifier, applying moisturizer, changing your device regularly, and taking breaks from using oxygen.

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