If you have a respiratory impairment like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or pulmonary fibrosis, you’re probably used to carefully planning your day-to-day life. From following your treatment plan to scheduling doctor’s appointments, you need to have an acute understanding of your medical needs and how to address them.
One of the medical needs you may struggle with is supplemental oxygen therapy. Depending on how severe your respiratory illness is, your pulmonologist will ask you to use medical oxygen anywhere from several hours a day to 24 hours a day. Either way, this could mean making sacrifices like staying home from activities to ensure your oxygen needs are met.
Fortunately, there is an alternative to standard oxygen therapy methods like oxygen gas cylinders and liquid oxygen devices. Portable oxygen concentrators were invented in the early 2000s and they offer the same medical-grade oxygen as traditional delivery methods, but they offer it in a much more convenient way that allows you to live life freely and on your own terms.
What’s more, if you live in a state like Colorado, the last thing you want is to be stuck at home when there are so many better things you can be doing. In this post, we’re going to take a look at 7 reasons you should be using a portable oxygen concentrator rather than other medical oxygen devices in Colorado. Remember to always consult your pulmonologist before making any changes to your respiratory treatment plan.
They Work Great at Higher Elevations
Whether you’ve lived in Colorado your whole life or you’re an out-of-stater looking to come here for work or retirement, you likely already know the state’s most defining feature: The Rocky Mountains. People come from all around the country to ski, mountain bike, and simply enjoy the fresh mountain air.
Unfortunately, as an oxygen patient, you know there’s one slight problem with this: the air is much thinner at higher altitudes. What this means is that the higher you go in altitude, the less air pressure there is, and in turn, the less oxygen you have to breathe. This doesn’t just apply to the mountains though; even Denver, the Capital of Colorado is a mile above sea level.
If you have lived at sea level most of your life and don’t travel to higher altitudes very often, you might experience something called acute mountain sickness (AMS). This typically happens when you moved to a higher elevation without giving your body enough time to acclimate to the lower oxygen levels. Anyone can experience acute mountain sickness, but it’s more common and oftentimes more severe in people with COPD or other respiratory illnesses.
Some of the symptoms of AMS include:
- Headache or lightheadedness
If someone experiencing AMS stays at a high altitude or they continue to climb in altitude, they may experience more severe symptoms including confusion, chest pain, and reduced consciousness. Another condition that can result from AMS is something called high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE). This is a neurological syndrome that causes the brain to swell with fluid and can even result in death if it’s left untreated.
Generally speaking, it’s easier for COPD patients to live at lower altitudes where it’s easier to breathe, but if you want to live at a higher altitude, you should consult your doctor in order to learn how to do it safely. He/she will likely recommend that you start supplemental oxygen therapy or alter your current oxygen therapy plan to adjust for the change of altitude. For example, if you want to travel into the mountains, you may need to use oxygen intermittently in order to maintain your blood oxygen levels while at higher altitudes.
While this is not a commonly known fact, portable oxygen concentrators work great at high altitudes. The Inogen One G5, for example, works at altitudes up to 10,000 feet above sea level meaning you’ll have no problems living in Denver and traveling to the mountains. Be aware, however, that there are several towns in Colorado that are higher than 10,000 feet like Leadville and Alma, so you should only travel to these towns if your doctor specifically advises you to.
Most portable oxygen concentrators manufactured within the last decade or so offer similar results as the G5 in terms of operating altitude. However, you should be sure to speak with an oxygen concentrator expert before making any decisions.
They’re Great for Road Trips
Taking a road trip is about as American as baseball and apple pie. While not everyone enjoys driving for hours on end or putting thousands of miles on their car, it’s hard to deny its benefits when it comes to seeing more of the country. Colorado is packed with landmarks, but you’re going to need to take a lot of road trips in order to see everything the state has to offer.
Unfortunately, traditional oxygen therapy devices like compressed oxygen cylinders and liquid oxygen tanks make road tripping an impossible feat for most oxygen patients. Oxygen tanks only provide several hours of freedom before they need to be refilled or replaced and this simply isn’t feasible for a long road trip. It’s never easy to find a place to refill oxygen tanks while you’re on the road and bringing a bunch of extra oxygen tanks is cumbersome and takes up a lot of room in the car.
Portable oxygen concentrators, on the other hand, were specifically designed with travelers in mind. These oxygen machines run off of electricity and can be charged from any wall outlet or cigarette outlet in a car via a DC charging cable. So, instead of struggling to find a place to refill your oxygen tank or carrying a bunch of backup units, you’ll have access to an infinite supply of oxygen just by plugging your POC into your car. One thing to note, however, is that most POCs will not run on their maximum flow setting while plugged into the car and you should not charge your POC while the car is off in order to prevent the battery from dying. Refer to your user manual for more information on this.
Another reason portable oxygen concentrators are so much better for road trips is that they’re far safer than traditional oxygen devices. In order to drive with an oxygen tank, you need to take a number of safety precautions because they can explode in certain circumstances. They’re also very bulky and heavy so if they end up getting jostled around in the car, they could injure someone. POCs don’t have these problems because they’re lighter, easier to handle, and don’t have any compressed oxygen.
Hiking is a Breeze
In Colorado, hiking is a popular pastime for people of all ages, and for good reason! Just a short hike every day or two can reduce stress levels, reduce the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, and most importantly, allow you to explore a new area that you’ve never been to before. But without an oxygen device that’s manageable, you won’t be able to hike, even if you are physically able.
‘Hiking’ implies that you will be away from pathed paths meaning it won’t be easy to wheel your oxygen device around with a rolling cart. Rocks and other obstacles will make this a lot more trouble than it’s worth and you’ll likely need to take your eyes off where you’re going which can be dangerous. On top of all this, your oxygen tubing will need to run all the way down to the oxygen tank which can be a tripping hazard as well.
While continuous flow portable oxygen concentrators like the Respironics SimplyGo are too heavy to carry on your back or shoulder, pulse dose portable oxygen concentrators like the Caire FreeStyle Comfort are not. Weighing in at just 5 pounds, you’ll be able to hike all day without experiencing back or shoulder pain and with the ergonomic curve of the FreeStyle Comfort, it won’t slide around causing you to lose balance as you walk.
Many pulse dose machines like the Inogen One G3 offer plenty of options in the way of accessories in order to make it more comfortable and easy to carry. For example, there is the G3 backpack which has a compartment to hold the G3 and keep it secure and plenty of other pockets to hold personal belongings like keys, your wallet, or a camera. A similar carrying backpack was also available for the Inogen One G5.
If you’d like to learn more about hiking with a respiratory condition, please refer to one of our latest posts titled “You are Never Too Old for A Walk in the Woods.”
They Could Save You Hundreds of Dollars
There’s no denying that Colorado is a great place to live, especially for seniors and others looking to settle down after retirement. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s the cheapest state to live in. In the grand scheme of things, Colorado is actually pretty average when it comes to the total cost of living, but as we age and stop working, we have to get a little creative with how we spend and save our money.
As an oxygen patient, it may seem counter intuitive to look for ways to save money on your oxygen device. After all, you depend on it every day in order to feel better and improve your life expectancy. However, there are ways to reduce the amount of money you’re spending without increasing your risk of experiencing complications like COPD exacerbations.
While portable oxygen concentrators have a higher upfront cost, they’re actually much more affordable in the long run. For example, the Inogen One G4 retails at $2,295. Given that this machine is set to last 5 to 7 years on average, that’s around $0.90 to $1.20 per day of oxygen use. Compare this to oxygen tanks which cost an average of $5 or more a day to refill and maintain.
Another thing to consider is that most portable oxygen concentrators come with 3-year warranties. This will cover you with a full replacement unit in the event that you received one that is defective. And if you want an extra layer of protection, you can typically upgrade to a 5-year or lifetime warranty for an added cost. This will vary based on the unit that you’re purchasing so be sure to consult with an oxygen concentrator specialist.
COPD and anxiety are two closely linked conditions. Physical symptoms such as chest pain and tightness can lead to natural increases in stress within the body, and people who are naturally predisposed to stress may experience even higher degrees of anxiety. Another thing that can lead to anxiety and even depression in COPD patients is their mindset. For example, someone who has a negative view of their disease and its outcome.
Believe it or not, the oxygen device that you use can also impact how much anxiety you experience. Someone who uses an oxygen tank may feel less capable and thus, experience lower self-esteem. On the other hand, someone who uses a portable oxygen machine may feel more confident because they’re thinking less about their oxygen delivery device and concentrating more on what they’re doing. POC users also report feeling more youthful and active than their oxygen tank counterparts.
If you own an Inogen One G3 we highly recommend accessories like the GO2 Carryalls. This is a stylish carrying bag specifically designed to hold your G3 and other personal belongings. The greatest thing about this bag is that it looks like any ordinary purse or handbag so you don’t have to be self-conscious about carrying around a supplemental oxygen device. It has a sleek leather look and comes in either brown or black so it can match with just about any outfit. It also has a conveniently located zipper so that you have easy access to your oxygen cannula and the G3’s user interface.
Colorado has a reputation as one of the most “outdoorsy” and “active” states in the country. If you have COPD or another chronic respiratory illness, that doesn’t mean you need to give these things up; it just means you need an oxygen device that can match your lifestyle.
Portable oxygen concentrators offer significantly more freedom and independence than other oxygen devices because they’re lighter, smaller, cheaper, and they allow you to stay out of the house for longer without having to search for a place to refill.
Pulse dose portable oxygen concentrators like the Inogen One G5 or Caire FreeStyle Comfort tend to be the best option for most people because they’re more reliable than their continuous flow counterparts. If you’re ready to learn more about our portable oxygen concentrators for sale, don’t hesitate to fill out the form at the side of the page or give our respiratory specialists a call.
In the meantime, check out the infographic below to see how pulse dose portable oxygen concentrators stack up against portable oxygen cylinders.