Oxygen Therapy: Using Oxygen at Home

Oxygen Therapy: Using Oxygen at Home


If you need oxygen at home, it is important to learn how to use and take care of your equipment. This information will help you get the most from your oxygen treatment.

  • If you have low blood oxygen levels, breathing extra oxygen can help you feel better and lead to a longer, more active life.
  • You can travel even though you use oxygen, but you'll need to plan ahead.
  • Oxygen is a fire hazard. Follow safety measures to keep you and your family safe.

How to use oxygen therapy

After your doctor prescribes oxygen and you decide on which source you will use, there are a few things to know about using oxygen at home.

Basic instructions

  • Do not change the setting on your oxygen without talking to your doctor first. Turning the flow rate up or down could put you in danger.
  • Keep track of how much oxygen is in the tank, and order more in advance so you don't run out.
  • Do not drink alcohol or take drugs that relax you, such as sleeping pills or sedatives, while using oxygen. They can cause you to breathe too slowly.
  • Call your doctor if you feel:
    • Short of breath.
    • Restless or confused.
    • Very tired.
    • Like you are not getting enough oxygen.

If you use a nasal cannula

  • Wash the nasal prongs with soap and water 1 or 2 times a week. Follow the maker's instructions on caring for your equipment.
  • Replace the prongs every 2 to 4 weeks. If you have a cold or the flu, change them when your symptoms pass.
  • Use a water-based moisturizer (such as Neutrogena Moisture) on your lips and in your nose to prevent drying and cracking. Read labels, and look for a product that lists water as the first ingredient. Petroleum-based products (such as Vaseline Petroleum Jelly) can plug the air holes.
  • Put a piece of gauze under the tubing to keep the skin behind your ears from getting sore.

Safety tips

Oxygen is a fire hazard. It will make a flame burn hotter and faster. It is very important to follow the steps below to keep you and your family safe.

  • Never smoke or let anyone else smoke while you are using oxygen. Put up "no smoking" signs, and be aware of people smoking near you when you are outside your home.
  • Keep oxygen at least 2 m (6 ft) away from flames or heat sources such as gas stoves, barbecue grills, space heaters, candles, and fireplaces.
  • Do not use flammable products, such as cleaning fluid, paint thinner, or aerosol sprays, while you are using oxygen.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher at home within easy reach. If you have an emergency, be sure to tell your fire department that you have oxygen in the house.
  • Keep oxygen tanks upright. Make sure they do not fall over and get damaged.

Travel tips

Plan in advance to make sure your trip goes well.

  • Talk to your doctor about whether it is safe for you to travel. Ask your doctor what you need to do to stay safe while travelling. Get at least one copy of your oxygen prescription, and take it with you on the trip.
  • Before the trip, tell the travel company (airline, cruise ship, train, or bus) that you use oxygen. It's important to talk to your travel company well in advance, because they may have requirements that can take some time to take care of. Travelling with oxygen can be done if you plan ahead.
  • Learn how to use a portable oxygen tank. Know how long it will last. Bring refills if needed.
  • Get a portable oxygen concentrator and learn how to use it. Some types of oxygen concentrators can be taken on airplanes, cruise ships, buses, and trains.


Current as of:
July 6, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Brian D. O'Brien MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Ken Y. Yoneda MD - Pulmonology
Hasmeena Kathuria MD - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Sleep Medicine