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How to Use Your Portable Oxygen Concentrator

Oxygen concentrators are an incredible solution to help patients with respiratory illnesses. Respiratory illnesses, such as COPD and lung infections, can reduce the oxygen lungs can take up. Using an oxygen concentrator can help patients with breathing problems supplement their oxygen needs. 

Oxygen concentrators are a form of medical equipment usually found in hospitals. However, innovation in engineering has led to the invention of portable oxygen concentrators. These devices are easy to carry, and patients can take them home with them. How do you set one up? Let’s find out. 

Things You Should Know About a Portable Oxygen Concentrator

There are many instances where a standard oxygen concentrator is too bulky to travel with. A portable one can be of great help at these moments. They can easily be used for traveling and for overnight use. 

However, there are some things you need to know about an oxygen concentrator before you set one up at home. 

  • Weight 

These portable devices weigh around five to ten pounds. They can easily be carried by the patient while running errands. 

Even if the patient is not traveling, the POC can be taken from one room to another, helping the patient finish household chores easily. 

  • Use Only With a Prescription

While portable, they are still medical equipment. They are a part of prescription medication given to patients with breathing issues. 

They help patients take in oxygen as a medicine. 

However, make sure that you use this device due to a prescription given by a medical professional. There are many POCs available online that you can purchase without a prescription. Using these POCs can lead to dangerous consequences. Therefore, self-medication can be harmful in these situations. 

  • Function

The Earth’s atmosphere or the air around us contains around 21% of oxygen. Oxygen concentrators absorb atmospheric oxygen. They use an electronic interface to process gases such as oxygen and nitrogen. 

The filters inside the machine helps remove dust particles from the absorbed oxygen. They also filter out any nitrogen gas present in the absorbed oxygen gas. 

This oxygen is now at 100% concentration. It is ready to be used as a medicinal supplement by the patient. The higher concentration of oxygen helps patients receive maximum oxygen therapy. 

Using a Portable Oxygen Device at Home

  • Check Your Supply

Even the best portable oxygen devices are of no use to you if they don’t supply oxygen the correct way. Hygiene is of utmost priority.

To check the supply of your POC, follow these steps:

  1. Wash your hands and sanitize them. 
  2. Place the portable device at least a foot away from the outlet you are plugging it in. 
  3. Choose a cool room with lots of ventilation. 
  4. Following the instructions provided by the manufacturer, turn the oxygen concentrator on. 
  5. Check the reading on the oxygen gauge—the measure of the volume of oxygen present in the pressurized tank. Usually, the manufacturer delivers new tanks of oxygen as per schedule. However, it is best to be certain. 
  • Using the Humidifier 

    The next step is to connect the plastic tubing with the machine. This step is important because it is the tubing that helps the oxygen concentrator transport oxygen to the patient. If it is connected incorrectly, then you may not get the proper amount of therapy you need.

    1. If your oxygen concentrator comes with a humidifier, check to see the water levels in the bottle. 
    2. If it is half empty, unscrew the bottle, and refill it again with sterile water. Avoid filling the bottle with mineral water as it can calcify. 
    3. Place the bottle back in your POC.
    4. If the bottle is full, but the machine has not been used for quite some time, change the water. This will prevent the incubation of germs. 
    • Attach the Tubes to the Humidifier 

    There are typically two tubes attached to the humidifier bottle. These tubes should be connected to the humidifier bottle after it has been cleaned and refilled. 

    These two tubes are made of plastic. The shorter tube is called the connector tube, while the longer tube is called the plastic nasal tubing. 

    1. Uncoil the tubing. 
    2. Check the entire tube for any nicks or holes with the help of your fingers. 
    3. Make sure that the tubes are not bent or coiled in any odd way.
    4. Attach the connector tube to the humidifier and tighten it firmly.
    5. Attach the other end of the connector tube to the portable device. 
    6. Lastly, attach the longer nasal tubing to the other opening in the humidifier bottle.
    • Set the Oxygen Flow Rate Correctly

      Each patient with respiratory problems is prescribed a certain oxygen flow rate by their doctor. This supplemental oxygen helps the patient make up for the loss of oxygen they face. 

      It is imperative to set the oxygen flow rate correctly. Too high a setting can result in oxygen toxicity, whereas a setting that is too low can reduce the efficacy of the oxygen therapy. 

      1. Adjust the knob of the oxygen flow rate meter. 
      2. This scale is usually numbered with the liters of oxygen per minute the patient is receiving. 
      3. Your doctor must have prescribed a certain flow rate (such as 3 liters per minute). 
      4. Set the knob at 3 lpm or the prescribed oxygen flow rate. 
      5. Make sure you do not change the oxygen flow rate setting without proper consultation with a doctor. 
      • Place Nasal Cannula Snugly Around Your Nose

        The nasal cannula is a small section of your tubing which is hardened and has space for two nostrils. The first step is to ensure that your nasal cannula is working properly. To do this, follow the steps listed below.  

        1. Turn the oxygen concentrator on and place the nasal cannula in a glass of water. 
        2. If the cannula is functioning properly, bubbles should form in the water around it. 
        3. If the cannula isn’t working properly, contact your manufacturer for a replacement. 
        4. If the cannula is working properly, dry it out, and place it snugly inside your nostrils. 
        5. Tuck the plastic tubing around your ears. 
        6. After the tubing has been tucked behind your ears comfortably, tighten the loop by using a movable clip given on the tubing. 
        7. Breathe in and out through your nose. Readjust the tubing if you feel uncomfortable.   
        8. Make sure that the nasal cannula does not move during the oxygen therapy process. 
        • Keep Your Equipment Sterile

          There are some cleaning habits that you or your caregiver must adopt once you start using a portable oxygen concentrator. Even the best of these devices can stop functioning properly if they are not properly cared for. 

          1. Wash your nasal cannula every week. This is the part of the device that comes in contact with the patient regularly. Sanitizing it is very important. 
          2. Remove the air filter in the oxygen concentrator, and clean it with lukewarm water and unscented soap. 
          3. Wash your humidifier bottle once every week. First, drain the water present in the bottle. Then, wash the bottle with soap and water. Finally, replace the water, and attach it back to the machine. 
          4. Only use distilled water to refill the humidifier bottle. This helps prevent mineral crystallization inside the nasal tubing. 
          Replacement Schedule 
          1. Replace your nasal cannula and attached mask (if you use one) every month. Change it more frequently if you have been sick. 
          2. Replace your air filter once every month. 
          3. Replace your tubing once every eight weeks. Most tubing often wears out before eight weeks. Make sure you are using flawless tubing. 
          4. These devices can become less efficient with wear and tear. You should contact your manufacturer for an annual checkup every year.
          • Prioritize Self-Care

          Listed below are some easy self-care tips patients should follow when using their oxygen concentrators. 

          1. Try to moisturize the area that comes in contact with the nasal cannula regularly. Since the oxygen is sharp and dry, the skin around the nose and mouth can become brittle and dry after a few treatments. Use a water-based lubricant or even aloe vera gel to help soothe the skin.  Do not use petroleum jelly as this may spread out to block the opening of the nasal cannula. 
          2. Wearing the tubing around your ear constantly can become irritating and uncomfortable over time. Asking the manufacturer for padded tubing can help. These tubes have a soft cushion to help you feel comfortable when receiving your oxygen therapy. 
          3. Build a community of reliable friends and relatives. Let them know that you are receiving oxygen therapy. You can also ask them to help you set the machine up for use.
          4. Inform the local fire department that you are using a portable oxygen machine at home. Since oxygen can cause fire hazards, informing authorities can prevent any problems. 
          5. In some instances, you may need to call your doctor. It is best to call your doctor for advice rather than self-medicate. 

          Contact your doctor immediately if: 

          1. You feel sleepy or tired after your oxygen therapy;
          2. You have a headache after receiving your oxygen therapy;
          3. Your fingernails and toenails change their color to a shade of blue; or
          4. The oxygen therapy is uncomfortable: this may indicate that you are having trouble breathing.

          Do’s of Using a Portable Oxygen Machine

          It is important to understand that your oxygen concentrator is a machine: it needs to be cleaned and maintained regularly. It also needs to be tuned and checked for repairs every year so that it doesn’t lose its function. 

          Listed below are a few things you must do if a portable oxygen device is prescribed to you by your doctor.

          • Drain Your Batteries Monthly

          This may be a surprise to some. However, using a machine’s battery until it runs down will actually help the batteries last longer. 

          Charge the machine’s batteries 100% once a month and use them until they are completely drained. 

          •  Check Your Nasal Tubing for Nicks

            The nasal tubing is a long plastic tube that can stretch up to 50 feet long: it is made of plastic. During the course of its usage, small nicks or holes can form on its surface. 

            If the flawed tube is used during oxygen therapy, the oxygen that needs to reach the patient will leak out. This reduces the efficiency of the nasal tubing and the oxygen therapy the patient is receiving. 

            • Run Your POC Once Every Month

            As these devices fall in the category of machines, if it is not used regularly, the engine inside can rust or get jammed.

            Even if you are not actively using your device, it is good to run it once every month. This will keep the engines running, maintaining the machine’s efficiency in the long-run. 

            • Change the Filters Annually

              The air filter inside your device plays an important role. Also called a “gross particle filter”, this filter traps any dust particles that might be present in the absorbed air. 

              This filter cleans the air and makes it ready for inhalation. If this filter gets too dirty or oily, its efficiency may be reduced. This can lead to dust-borne diseases and asthma in the patient getting treated. 

              Don’ts of Using a Portable Machine

              Just like there are some rules to follow when using portable devices, there are also some things to avoid when you’re using one. 

              • Do Not Use the POC Near an Open Flame

                While oxygen is not flammable, it does support combustion. This means that it can cause fire hazards. 

                Therefore, you should always use your device in a place with no open fires. Also, ask anybody with smoking habits to not light up a cigarette in the room containing the POC equipment. 

                It also helps to not have any wooden furniture near the device. 

                • Do Not Block Any Air Vents 

                These machines work best when it is in a cool, dry place. Extreme temperatures can affect or even degrade its performance. 

                Try to operate the machinery in a large room that does not have a lot of furniture because a larger room that is free of furniture will have more space for air to fill. Having a window in the room would be best, as it would allow more flow of air. Remember that an oxygen concentrator can absorb too much of the oxygen present in a small windowless room. Therefore, don’t use a POC in a small windowless room. 

                Blocked air vents can prevent the machine from getting the ventilation it requires. This can overheat the machinery, potentially causing a fire hazard. 

                • Do Not Get the Concentrator Wet

                These devices shouldn’t get wet because water droplets can damage the internal machinery of the device. 

                Do not leave yours in the rain or on a wet floor with water spillage. 

                Conclusion

                A portable oxygen concentrator is one of the best ways patients can receive their oxygen therapy without the restraints of a hospital. It helps them work, run errands, socialize, and live their lives by their own rules. 

                A POC also helps a person receiving oxygen therapy lead a normal healthy life rather than it being a chore to struggle through. The best thing about a POC is that you can use it yourself without needing any help from other people. This makes patients feel more encouraged to incorporate a POC into their daily lives. Try Inogen One G4 and tell others in need how much you love it!