How to Deal with Oxygen Therapy Side Effects

Oxygen Therapy
A Woman Using Inogen portable oxygen concentrator

While oxygen therapy provides helpful benefits to anyone with a respiratory illness such as COPD or asthma, there is always the risk of side effects. Knowing the best practices for oxygen therapy and following a few tips for prevention can help make your treatments safe and effective. 

What are Oxygen Therapy Side Effects?

With regular use of an oxygen tank or oxygen concentrator, you may experience some side effects of oxygen therapy. By knowing and understanding the side effects, you can take action to try to prevent them in the future. 

Skin Irritation 

Using a nasal cannula or mask regularly can lead to some skin irritations such as rashes or breakouts. To help with irritation, use a topical treatment or lotion to help reduce this side effect. 

Nose Bleeding and Nasal Dryness

The dryness of pure oxygen can dry out nasal passages and also cause irritation. In some instances, the dryness may result in nose bleeds. Using a moisturizing product, such as a saline nasal mist or nasal gel, can help lubricate and soothe nasal passages.

Ear Pressure & Pain

Some patients have experienced ear pressure and pain from the pressurized flow during oxygen therapy. This side effect, similar to the ear pressure felt during changing altitude on an airplane, can be resolved by simply yawning, swallowing, or pinching your nose and gently blowing to relieve the pressure. 


Soreness around the nose is common with the frequent use of a nasal cannula. As a result to help with this, apply moisturizing lotions to reduce soreness at the point of cannula or mask contact. 

Fire Hazard

The use of oxygen tanks for oxygen therapy is a fire hazard. That’s because oxygen is flammable. To combat this, choose an oxygen concentrator as a safer alternative. Also, avoid smoking around oxygen and keep oxygen away from open flames. 

Oxygen Toxicity

Too much pure oxygen can be a bad thing. Oxygen toxicity occurs when an excess amount of oxygen causes damage to the lungs. Irritation in the airways and excessive coughing and shortness of breath are indicators of oxygen toxicity. Be sure to use your oxygen as prescribed by your doctor. You can also monitor your blood oxygen by using a pulse oximeter to ensure you are not reaching toxic levels. 

Suppression of Breathing

The sensation that oxygen therapy is impairing normal breathing is a rare side effect. If you experience this feeling that your breathing is being suppressed during oxygen therapy, contact your doctor immediately. 

How to Deal with Side Effects of Oxygen Therapy in COPD

COPD patients may have to use oxygen therapy more often than patients with other types of respiratory illnesses. This means that COPD patients are more likely to experience side effects. Here are some tips for managing side effects with frequent supplementary oxygen use. 

Oxygen Humidifier

Oxygen humidifiers can be attached to most oxygen concentrators. They add moisture to pressurized oxygen which can reduce the side effects of dryness. 


Moisturizers help reduce nasal irritation and soreness. Use these topical treatments regularly to prevent these side effects. 

Saline Nasal Sprays

Saline nasal sprays are another option for moistening nasal passages and preventing nasal dryness. 

Lubricating Jelly and Nasal Gel

Lubricating jellies and gels soothe dry nasal passages and help prevent the irritation that comes with frequent supplemental oxygen use. 


No matter how often you use oxygen therapy, finding ways to reduce side effects can make treatments safe, comfortable, and healthy.