More and more people are using oxygen therapy in their homes, permitting them to lead active productive lives. People with high altitude sickness, asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, occupational lung disease, lung cancer, cystic fibrosis, congestive heart failure, along with other disease processes may benefit from using oxygen in the home.

the prescription 

A physician must write a prescription for oxygen therapy. The prescription will spell out the flow rate, how much oxygen you need per minute -- referred to as liters per minute (LPM or L/M) -- and when you need to use oxygen. Some people use oxygen therapy only while exercising, others only while sleeping, and still others need oxygen continuously. Your physician will give a pulse oximetry test that will indicate what your oxygen level is and help determine what your needs are.

The equipment

Oxygen can be delivered to your home in the form of a concentrator or a gas in various-sized cylinders. Each method is examined in more detail below.

In Home Oxygen Concentrator

This is an electrically powered device that separates the oxygen out of the air, concentrates it, and stores it. This system has a number of advantages because it doesn't have to be resupplied and it is not as costly as liquid oxygen. Extra tubing permits the user to move around with minimal difficulty. Small, portable systems have been developed that afford even greater mobility. You must have a cylinder of oxygen as a backup in the event of a power failure. You should advise your electric power company in order to get priority service when there is a power failure.

Compressed Gas (O2 Tank)

Oxygen is stored under pressure in a cylinder equipped with a regulator that controls the flow rate. Because the flow of oxygen out of the cylinder is constant, an oxygen-conserving device may be attached to the system to avoid waste. This device releases the gas only when you inhale and cuts it off when you exhale. Oxygen can be provided in a small cylinder that can be carried with you.

NOW CARRYING: Portable Concentrators

Don't let the altitude keep you from being active in our beautiful back country


Zen-O™ is a portable oxygen concentrator that delivers mobile oxygen on demand to better manage your oxygen therapy within your home or outside. It uses advanced technology to adjust the amount of oxygen delivered in response to your breath rate and automatically increases the amount when you need it most – such as hiking uphill or managing respiratory disorders such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Zen-O Lite

Zen-O LiteTM is an ultra-lightweight portable oxygen concentrator designed for patients with active lifestyles that require long term oxygen therapy. It’s quiet and patients will even forget it’s there.

Oxygen Delivery devices

There are two common means of oxygen delivery. A nasal cannula is a two-pronged device inserted in the nostrils that is connected to tubing carrying the oxygen. The tubing can rest on the ears.

People who need a high flow of oxygen generally use a mask. Some people who use a nasal cannula during the day prefer a mask at night or when their noses are irritated or clogged by a cold.


You should never smoke while using oxygen. Warn visitors not to smoke near you when you are using oxygen. Put up no-smoking signs in your home where you most often use the oxygen. When you go to a restaurant with your portable oxygen source, ask to be seated in the nonsmoking section. Stay at least five feet away from gas stoves, candles, lighted fireplaces, or other heat sources. Don't use any flammable products like cleaning fluid, paint thinner, or aerosol sprays while using your oxygen.

Keep a fire extinguisher close by, and let your fire department know that you have oxygen in your home. If you use an oxygen concentrator, notify your electric company so you will be given priority if there is a power failure. Also, avoid using extension cords if possible.

care of equipment

The home medical equipment and services company that provides the oxygen therapy equipment you use should provide you with instructions on user care and maintenance of your particular equipment. Here are some general guidelines for your cleaning procedures. You should wash your nasal prongs with a liquid soap and thoroughly rinse them once or twice a week. Replace them every two to four weeks. If you have a cold, change them when your cold symptoms have passed.

The humidifier bottle should be washed with soap and warm water and rinsed thoroughly between each refill. Fill with distilled water.

If you use an oxygen concentrator, unplug the unit, then wipe down the cabinet with a damp cloth and dry it daily. The air filter should be cleaned at least twice a week. Follow your home medical equipment company's directions for cleaning the cabinet filter.

Do's and Don'ts

  • Don't ever change the flow of oxygen unless directed by your physician.

  • Don't use alcohol or take any other sedating drugs because they will slow your breathing rate.

  • Make sure you order more oxygen from your dealer in a timely manner.

  • Use water-based lubricants on your lips or nostrils. Don't use an oil-based product like petroleum jelly.

  • To prevent your cheeks or the skin behind your ears from becoming irritated, tuck some gauze under the tubing. If you have persistent redness under your nose, call your physician.


Call your physician if you experience frequent headaches, anxiety, blue lips or fingernails, drowsiness, confusion, restlessness, anxiety, or slow, shallow, difficult, or irregular breathing. Also, call your physician if you feel any symptoms of illness.

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