Oxygen Therapy Safety Precautions

Although oxygen therapy is vital to many people's health and is necessary for treating those with respiratory illnesses, it can also be unsafe and needs to be treated with the proper care. The reason they can be dangerous is that oxygen tanks are combustible and highly flammable. Daily oxygen use needs to be followed by the recommendation of a healthcare provider to prevent harmful things from happening, including oxygen toxicity. Knowing the power of oxygen and how to keep its use of it safe is very beneficial to patients. 

Safety Precautions During Oxygen TherapySafety Precautions During Oxygen Therapy

Types of Oxygen Concentrators

There are two types of oxygen concentrators patients can choose from. They are home and portable oxygen concentrators. Home oxygen concentrators are stationary and designed to deliver oxygen treatment at home. Portable oxygen concentrators are small, lightweight oxygen concentrators that are designed for use while on the go.

Oxygen Safety Precautions At Home

Here are things to avoid during oxygen therapy at home:

  • Do not keep oxygen tanks near an open flame, including fireplaces, stoves, and more. 
  • Do not keep oxygen tanks near combustible sources, including space heaters, hair dryers, electrical items, and more.
  • Do not smoke cigarettes or other substances near an oxygen tank.
  • Never use any kind of petroleum products near the oxygen tanks.
  • Do not smoke cigarettes or let anyone else smoke near the oxygen tanks. It is better to use a ‘No Smoking’ sign near the tanks.
  • Get a smoke detector for your home. If you already have one, make a habit of checking the batteries of the smoke detector once a month. Always keep a set of spare batteries with you.
  • Always remember to turn off the oxygen when not in use.
  • Don’t forget to check the level of oxygen in the oxygen tank as well as the backup tank.
  • Check for any cracks and leaks.
  • Don’t forget to clean the nasal prongs. Check it daily.
  • Install a fire extinguisher and learn how to use it in emergency situations.

Necessities During At-Home Oxygen Therapy 

Here are a few equipment that are necessary for oxygen therapy at home:

  • Oxygen Tanks:
    • Less safe than oxygen concentrators
    • Needs to be replaced as tanks become empty
  • Oxygen Concentrators:
    • Safer than oxygen tanks
    • Does not need to be replaced, as air is converted to oxygen
    • More expensive 
  • Nasal Cannula or Face Mask
    • Follow the recommendation of a healthcare provider

Oxygen Therapy Safety Precautions While Using an Oxygen Concentrator

While oxygen concentrators are much safer than oxygen tanks there are still a few precautions that need to be followed: 

  • Keep the oxygen concentrator away from open flames
  • Keep the oxygen concentrator away from water such as swimming pools or bathtubs
  • Avoid smoking around the oxygen concentrator
  • Avoid using aerosol sprays around the oxygen concentrator
  • Make sure the intake vents of the oxygen concentrator are not blocked when in use
  • Be sure to store the oxygen concentrator safely, never exposing it to the elements such as extreme heat or cold 

Safety Measures When Using an Oxygen Tank 

Follow these safety precautions when using oxygen tanks: 

  • Do not smoke or allow others to smoke near you. 
  • Do not get near open flames like matches or lighters.
  • Always stay 5 feet away from heat sources like fireplaces, gas stoves, and heaters.
  • Do not use products that are flammable including cleaning products, aerosol sprays, and others.
  • Always keep the oxygen device upright and attach them to a fixed/sturdy object to remain in place.
  • Avoid products containing oil, grease, or petroleum, including Vaseline or other petroleum-based creams.

Safety Measures When Using an Oxygen Concentrator:

  • Do not plug it into an outlet used by other appliances.
  • Do not put anything on the top of the concentrator.
  • Do not place it too close to the wall.

Why is Handling Oxygen a Major Issue?

Oxygen Can Be Hazardous

Pure oxygen can be hazardous since it is highly flammable, especially in oxygen tanks as the air is pressurized. Every year, it is estimated that around 70 people are killed due to oxygen fires. These accidents are not related to equipment issues, but rather a person being negligent that results in a harmful accident. 

Oxygen Needs to be Used as Medication in a Balanced Way

We often think of pure oxygen like air, which it is not. Pure oxygen is much more beneficial for treating respiratory illnesses. Pure oxygen is medicine and should be used as such. Using oxygen on a regular basis requires responsibility and care. Too much pure oxygen can be harmful and make you sick. That is why it is important to follow the oxygen therapy recommendations of your doctor. Pressure settings and frequency of use are critical guidelines to help manage a respiratory illness without causing accidental harm.  

Key Takeaways

If you are prescribed oxygen therapy by your doctor to treat a respiratory illness, you have options in the type of equipment you wish to use. Know the facts and make the best choice between oxygen concentrators and oxygen tanks. Whichever ever type of equipment you select, be sure to follow all safety guidelines to prevent an accident.  

Finally, follow your doctor’s use of oxygen therapy precisely. Your prescription for oxygen therapy is your guide to healthy use.  

Chris Vasta

Chris Vasta is the president of The CPAP Shop and an expert in sleep and respiratory therapy. He often provides insights on product design and functionality on various manufacturers’ prototypes and is frequently tapped to provide reviews on new releases.