Oxygen therapy is the basic method of treatment for people with severe COPD, either during a COPD exacerbation or when the disease is stable and blood oxygen levels are low. The goal of oxygen therapy is to maintain your blood oxygen at a level that meets your bodyâ€™s demand for oxygen, usually above 89 percent.1
In general, oxygen is safe and effective when used correctly but, according to the American Thoracic Society, there are several recognizable hazards associated with its use that you should be aware of.2 Â Here are some oxygen therapy side effects to take note of:
Skin Irritation and Nasal Dryness
Because oxygen therapy has a drying effect on the nasal passages, it is not uncommon for skin irritation, skin breakdown and nasal dryness to occur when using it. Using a moisturizing product such as AYR Saline Nasal Mist or AYR Nasal Gel can help lubricate and soothe nasal passages making oxygen therapy more comfortable.
Although oxygen is not a flammable gas, it does support combustion meaning that things will burn more readily in its presence. If you must use supplemental oxygen:
Never smoke or allow anyone to smoke while oxygen is in use at home or in an automobile.
Donâ€™t use oxygen near an open heat source, such as a wall furnace or electric stove.
Avoid using personal care products containing petroleum.
People who are exposed to high concentrations of oxygen for long periods of time are at risk for oxygen toxicity. These include ventilator patients, premature infants and people receiving hyperbaric oxygen treatment.3 For this reason, it is recommended that when oxygen therapy is warranted, the lowest effective dose be given.4
Suppression of Breathing
In certain patients, oxygen therapy may suppress the drive to breathe; however, this remains a matter of controversy. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute reports that this can generally be managed by adjusting your oxygen flow rate.5 Remember: never adjust your oxygen dose without first checking with your physician.
If you experience any of these oxygen therapy side effects, contact help immediately. Even though there are possible side effects from oxygen therapy, there are still many positive benefits thatÂ you can get fromÂ portable oxygen therapy and increase your quality of life. If you’re interested in learning more about portable oxygen therapy, click here to learn about the innovative, lightweight and quiet Inogen One portable oxygen concentrator.
Author: Deborah Leader RN, BSN, PHN
1 The American Thoracic Society. Why Do I Need Oxygen Therapy? Accessed January 23, 2014.
2 The American Thoracic Society. Hazards of Oxygen. Accessed January 22, 2014.
3 Kevin T. Collopy, BA. FP-C, et. al. Oxygen Toxicity. EMS World. January 17, 2012.
4 Jenkinson, SG., Oxygen Toxicity. New Horiz. 1993 Nov; 1(4):504-11.
5 National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. What are the Risks of Oxygen Therapy? February 24, 2012.