5 Common Myths about Oxygen Therapy

Myths – from where do they originate? In modern culture, myths are born out of obsolete misinformation and then perpetuated by word of mouth or with the simple click of a mouse. Sadly, oxygen therapy is not immune to myth; in today’s computer age, false information is abundant on the Internet. How can you separate myth from reality when it comes to oxygen therapy? By educating yourself with the following, 5 fact-based truths:

Myth #1 – Oxygen is addictive.

TruthWhen the lungs are unable to meet the body’s demand for oxygen, oxygen concentration in the blood drops and less oxygen is delivered to the cells and tissues. Because supplemental oxygen increases the concentration of oxygen in the blood, using it satisfies the body’s demand for it. The belief that the more you use oxygen, the more you will become addicted to it is false. Addiction to alcohol or addictive drugs, like narcotics, is characterized by compulsive use, craving, loss of control and continued use. Supplemental oxygen is not like a narcotic; using it does not create an increased need for it. Although oxygen saturation may drop when supplemental oxygen is discontinued, it doesn’t mean you’re hooked on it; it only means that you’re unable to get enough oxygen from the air you breathe and you need a higher concentration of oxygen to maintain health and quality of life, and to prevent further complications.1

Myth #2 – Oxygen always relieves shortness of breath.

TruthIn many instances, supplemental oxygen does relieve shortness of breath; in many cases it doesn’t. This is particularly true of COPD patients who lead a sedentary lifestyle. Persistent inactivity leads to muscle weakness and fatigue and impairs the body’s ability to utilize oxygen. When weak, tired muscles are called upon to perform any type of physical activity, shortness of breath worsens, sometimes to such a degree that supplemental oxygen can’t relieve it.2 A regular exercise program can interrupt this vicious cycle and is an important part of managing the disease.

Myth #3 – Oxygen is flammable.

TruthThis is probably one of the most common misconceptions about supplemental oxygen. In truth, oxygen is combustible; not flammable. This means that materials burn more readily in its presence.3 Because oxygen supports combustion, precautionary measures must be taken anytime it’s in use. For more information on how to use oxygen safety, refer to 7 Oxygen Safety Tips, brought to you by Inogen.

Myth #4 – All people with COPD eventually need oxygen.

TruthWrong again! COPD is a progressive disease in and of itself; smoking makes the progression that much faster.  As smoking continues, more lung tissue is destroyed, lung function worsens and the risk of needing supplemental oxygen increases. Smoking cessation prevents excessive lung function decline in COPD and in some cases, even normalizes it.4

If smoking cessation occurs before lung damage is too extensive, supplemental oxygen may not be necessary, even in the presence of COPD.

Exercise is also an important component of COPD treatment. Many patients claim that implementing a daily exercise routine decreased their need for supplemental oxygen to such a degree, that they didn’t need it anymore. Refer to 11 Tips for Exercising with a Chronic Lung Condition for more information.

Myth #5 – Oxygen concentrators are big, heavy and embarrassing.

TruthLuckily, with the advent of the portable oxygen concentrator (POC), the days of big, heavy and embarrassing are over. At just 4.8 pounds, the Inogen One G3 is so light, that you can easily carry it with one hand or over your shoulder in a small carrying case. At only 8.75 inches long, 3 inches wide and 7.25 inches tall, the Inogen One G3 is equivalent in size to a 10.5 ounce bag of marshmallows. Smaller and lighter means you can throw embarrassment right out the window.

Check out our Infographic to learn more about the history of oxygen concentrators.


Author: Deborah Leader RN, BSN, PHN


1 John’s Hopkins Health Alerts. The Value of Home Oxygen Therapy for COPD Patients. Accessed November 25, 2013.
2 Kao, Andrew, MD., Loh, Evan, MD. Skeletal muscle dysfunction and exercise intolerance in in congestive heart failure. January 26, 2000.
3 American Lung Association. Supplemental Oxygen. Updated 2013.
4 B.W.M. Willemse, D.S. Postma, W. Timens, and N.H.T. ten Hacken. The impact of smoking cessation on respiratory symptoms, lung function, airway hyper-responsiveness and inflammation. ERJ March 1, 2004 Vol. 23 No. 3 464-476.

One thought on “5 Common Myths about Oxygen Therapy”

  1. Avatar novena says:

    Can oxygen give off a strange smell I have lung fibrosis and on the inogen one g2 for about a year but recently expericing problems with a strang smell it is like in my body?my urine and stool I want to rule out that it may be the oxygen I am on setting 3 for about most of the day

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