Oxygen therapy is a method of passing extra oxygen to the lungs. It is done to increase the level of oxygen in your blood.
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Oxygen therapy is needed when you cannot get enough oxygen breathing normal air. It is most often needed because of a health problem or injury. Some common reasons that people need oxygen therapy include:
Oxygen therapy is safe. There is an increased risk of fire around oxygen, but basic steps will help avoid this:
Oxygen therapy is only given if you have low oxygen levels in your blood. Your blood oxygen levels will be measured. This can be done with a quick scan on your fingers.
A prescription for oxygen will be needed. The prescription will include:
Oxygen therapy is most often given with a nasal cannula or a facemask. A nasal cannula is a tube that is put just under your nostrils. If you have a stoma, oxygen can also be given through a tube directly to the stoma.
Oxygen may be delivered through 1 of 3 systems:
The amount of oxygen therapy is based on your condition. It may be needed for a few hours a day or 24 hours a day.
Oxygen therapy is painless.
Call your doctor if any of these occur:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Lung Association
Children's Health Network
Bateman NT, Leach RM. ABC of oxygen. BMJ. 1998;317:798-801.
Bailey RE. Home oxygen therapy for treatment of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Am Fam Physician. 2004;70(5). Available at http://www.aafp.org/afp/2004/0901/p864.html. Accessed December 22, 2014.
Oxygen therapy. American thoracic society website. Available at: http://patients.thoracic.org/information-series/en/resources/oxygen-therapy.pdf. Published 2005. Accessed December 22, 2014.
Supplemental oxygen. American Lung Association website. Available at: http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/copd/living-with-copd/supplemental-oxygen.html. Accessed December 22, 2014.
Last reviewed December 2014 by Marcin Chwistek, MD Last Updated: 12/20/2014