Supplemental oxygen therapy is a foundational part of most COPD treatment plans. The ultimate goal of oxygen therapy is to provide the lungs with a higher concentration of oxygen which helps ensure that your blood oxygen levels remain normal. While most COPD patients need to use supplemental oxygen at some point in their lives, the experience tends to vary from person to person.
If you’ve been on oxygen for some time, you know that there are good days and there are bad days. One day, everything may be working exactly as it should and you forget that you’re even on oxygen. However, the next day, you might experience discomfort with your nasal cannula, dryness in your nose, equipment failure, or any other number of issues. It’s during times like these that we begin to wonder if supplemental oxygen is too intrusive to be worth our time and effort.
And while it’s true that oxygen therapy can be intrusive sometimes, the alternative can be far worse. Having low blood oxygen levels (hypoxemia) for prolonged periods of time can have devastating effects on the body including breathlessness, dizziness, confusion, and eventual organ damage or failure. Your body absolutely needs oxygen, so if you’re thinking about reducing your oxygen flow, be sure to consult your physician beforehand.
To help you cope with the unpredictability of oxygen therapy, we’re going to offer seven tips to get you back on the right track and experience peace of mind again.
Start With Choosing the Right Oxygen Device for Your Needs
If you get the sense that oxygen therapy is always an uphill battle, there’s a good chance that you have the wrong oxygen device for your needs. Unfortunately, the greatest strength of the oxygen industry is also its greatest weakness — there are too many options. Traditional oxygen tanks, liquid oxygen tanks, stationary oxygen concentrators, and portable oxygen concentrators are just a few of the options out there. And even once you decide which one is best for you, you’ll have many different brands and devices to choose from, all of which vary greatly in terms of what they offer the patient.
Take traditional oxygen tanks, for example. These devices have been around for many decades and they’ve provided millions of COPD patients with reliable oxygen. However, since the early 2000s, they’ve become nearly obsolete due to technological advancements in the oxygen industry. While oxygen tanks are still popular, most people prefer having a portable oxygen concentrator instead. Rather than being heavy, bulky, and intrusive like oxygen tanks, portable oxygen concentrators are ultra-lightweight, comfortable, and convenient. And most importantly, they provide patients with reliable medical-grade oxygen.
One of the most popular types of POC is a pulse dose POC. These concentrators closely track your breathing rate and administer oxygen only when you’re inhaling. In other words, your concentrator battery will last much longer than it would with a standard continuous flow concentrator because it isn’t having to constantly work to put out oxygen. The Inogen One G5 and the Caire FreeStyle Comfort are two of the most popular pulse dose units because they both weigh under 5 pounds, they have low failure rates, and they’re backed by some of the most reputable brands in the industry.
Choosing the Right Nasal Cannula
Aside from having the right concentrator, having the right nasal cannula is one of the best things you can do to make supplemental oxygen less intrusive. The nasal cannula is the part of the oxygen tubing that allows the oxygen to flow freely into your nose so that you can inhale it. However, as you can imagine, it can be quite annoying having the cannula in your nose all the time. Many people report experiencing irritation or dryness in their nostrils. Also, many people report experiencing irritation on their ears where the oxygen tubing rests.
The simplest solution to this problem is to use an ultra-soft nasal cannula that isn’t as abrasive as the standard cannulas. Many oxygen concentrators also have the option to add a humidifier to the device which prevents the nostrils from drying out after extended periods of use. There are also many different types of nasal sprays and lubricants on the market that you can apply before and after using your oxygen concentrator. However, be sure not to use petroleum-based skin products because these are highly flammable and will be made even more flammable as medical-grade oxygen is applied.
Find the Right Oxygen Accessories for Your Lifestyle
Everyone has a different lifestyle. Some people prefer to stay at home while others prefer to be out of the house as much as possible. So, it goes without saying that not everyone has the same oxygen needs. The amazing thing about portable oxygen concentrators is that they can be customized to different lifestyles with the use of different accessories. For example, if you own the Caire FreeStyle Comfort, you’ll be able to choose between the standard carrying case and the backpack. The former is better for people who want to minimize the amount of weight they’re carrying while the latter is great for anyone who wants to carry a lot of extra personal belongings.
Another decision you’ll have to make is what size of batteries you will need. Most portable oxygen concentrators out there come with several different sizes of battery and you can make a decision based on how long you typically stay out of the house. For example, the Inogen One G5 offers two different battery options — 8-cell and 16-cell. If you just take a quick trip out of the house to go to the grocery store, you might only need the 8-cell battery. However, if you travel around a lot, you might want the 16-cell battery which offers about twice the battery life.
If you’re someone who likes to take road trips, a DC charging cable is a must-have accessory. DC charging cables allow you to charge your POC via a car outlet which is incredibly handy if you’re going to be in the car for hours on end. The best part is that many POCs can be used while they’re charging, so whenever you leave the car to sightsee, you’ll have a fully charged battery to work with.
Take Some Time to Read the User Manual
Think of your portable oxygen concentrator user manual as your all-in-one guide for using your new device. It will teach you everything you need to know from turning the device on to adjusting the flow rate and understanding the different visual and audible alarms. While it may be tedious to sit there and read through the whole manual in one sitting, you should at least sift through it in order to learn the basics of how to operate it. This way, if you’re out of the house, you won’t be left to wonder what a specific button or function does.
Another important thing you’ll learn from the user manual is how to troubleshoot your portable oxygen concentrator. Troubleshooting refers to the steps that you take if something should go wrong in order to remedy the issue. You’ll be surprised to find that the majority of issues that portable oxygen concentrators have can easily be solved with a quick fix. Since POCs are electronic devices like computers, simply turning the device off and then on again can solve a lot of issues, so it’s often the first thing you should try when something goes wrong.
Keep Up With Device Maintenance
Like with any oxygen therapy device, it’s important to take care of your portable oxygen concentrator. The good news is that maintaining a POC is much easier than many people realize and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg to do it either. One thing you should do regularly is clean your device. As you can imagine, when you’re carrying your POC with you everywhere, it can start to gather dirt and germs which could make you sick or even damage the device. Simply wipe your device down with a disinfectant wipe once or twice a week and make sure you don’t get any of the electrical components wet. You should also be sure to take off the particle filter occasionally, wash it off, and replace it because this protects the internal components of the POC and also purifies the air you breathe.
Two other components you should replace regularly are your nasal cannula and your sieve beds. The nasal cannula needs to be replaced regularly because it can get worn out over time and starts to get really dirty. The sieve bed is a special filter inside your POC that removes specific gases from the air like nitrogen which enables you to receive medical-grade oxygen. If the sieve beds are in poor condition, you may not be receiving the oxygen you need to stay healthy. Every device is different, but generally speaking, you should replace the sieve beds every year or two. Ideally, your nasal cannula should be replaced every two weeks.
Plan Your Trips Carefully
You would not be making full use of your portable oxygen concentrator if you didn’t get out of the house and enjoy the freedoms that you used to before starting oxygen therapy. There are near endless possibilities when you own a POC, but it’s still important to be prepared every time you leave the house. For example, if you leave the house without fully charged batteries, you might find yourself in a difficult situation where you either have to find a place to recharge them or return home earlier than expected. The best way to prevent this is to always know how long you will be out of the house. Make sure you have enough battery life to get you through the day plus a few extra hours to account for any change of plans.
One thing that’s really handy to have on long trips away from home is an external battery charger. Most portable oxygen concentrator batteries need to be attached to the unit in order to be charged. This means that you can only charge one battery at a time. However, with an external battery charger, you’ll be able to charge two batteries at once. This is very useful if you’re going to be on the go a lot and don’t want to sit around waiting for your batteries to charge.
Speak With Your Doctor
Last but certainly not least, you should speak with your doctor if you’re having trouble incorporating oxygen therapy into your life. Your doctor should be the first person you contact if you’re thinking about making changes to your oxygen treatment plan because he/she will be able to tell you whether or not it is safe to do so. Many people believe that if there are no immediate symptoms caused by reducing their oxygen flow, then it’s safe to do so. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Although you may feel fine at first, prolonged hypoxemia can cause a lot of harm to your body including dizziness, confusion, and even organ damage. By talking to your doctor you may be able to work out a treatment plan that takes into consideration both your comfort and your long-term health goals.
Having a reliable supply of medical-grade oxygen is essential for any COPD treatment plan. Unfortunately, many people end up purchasing the wrong oxygen device for their needs and find that it’s too intrusive for it to be worth their time and effort. This is why it’s recommended that COPD patients use small, lightweight, and convenient portable oxygen concentrators like the Caire FreeStyle Comfort or the Inogen One G5. After using a POC for the first time, many patients realize that oxygen therapy doesn’t have to be intrusive or cause stress in their lives.
Here at LPT Medical, we take your oxygen needs very seriously. We don’t want you to be stuck with an oxygen device that you’re unhappy with or that isn’t meeting your needs. This is why we have a team of oxygen concentrator specialists who will take the time to understand what you’re looking for, then align you with the oxygen device that will best suit your individual needs. We also have a number of financing and buying options available. Contact us either by phone or email to learn more.