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After returning home from a stay at the hospital, adjusting to a new oxygen therapy prescription can feel a little nerve-wracking. In order to help you feel prepared and educated, let’s explore what you should know about home oxygen therapy and what you should discuss with your doctor. Adjusting to home oxygen after a hospital stay may require a few new routines, but with a little practice, it will feel familiar in no time.
If you are starting oxygen therapy after a hospital stay, you may be concerned about how you can be sure that you are using everything correctly and getting the oxygen you need. Not to worry: The hospital, and your doctor, have likely given you all the information you need. However, it can be a lot to absorb, particularly after being released from the hospital, so here are a few helpful reminders about what you may need and when to contact your doctor about your home oxygen after a hospital stay.
When you are first starting O2 therapy, there can be a bit of a learning curve when it comes to learning how to properly use a nasal cannula and set everything up correctly at the beginning. Your doctor and oxygen provider can help you with the basics, but it will take a little practice. Thankfully, if you are using an Inogen portable oxygen concentrator (POC), it is incredibly easy to get started. First, make sure you are clear on how to turn your oxygen delivery device on, and how to adjust the flow to the correct setting. You should know how to connect and disconnect your nasal cannula and tubing, as well as how to keep it all clean. If you used oxygen at the hospital, home oxygen therapy will likely be a different experience, so discuss what to expect with your doctor. If you are using an Inogen portable oxygen concentrator, simply follow the instructions in your Getting Started Guide. You can also contact Inogen if you have any questions about how to use our oxygen concentrators.
Next, make sure you are clear on your oxygen prescription, so you know what flow setting to use, when you should be using oxygen and for how long at a time. You should be clear on what time of day you will be using oxygen therapy so that you can plan around it at the beginning. Once you become accustomed to the routine, you will be able to be much more flexible with your day, particularly if you have a lightweight portable oxygen concentrator. If you are unclear on your prescription, or have any questions about when and how to use your oxygen, contact your doctor right away to clarify.
It may also be helpful to get a pulse oximeter so that you can test your own oxygen levels. This way, you will be able to see if your oxygen therapy is improving your blood oxygen levels in the way your doctor expects. Measuring your oxygen levels on your own will also help give your doctor the information they need should your prescription need to be adjusted for your home oxygen after a hospital stay.
If you have used oxygen therapy before, but have a new prescription or a new oxygen delivery device, you will need to know how you will be adjusting your oxygen use. Discuss any changes in how or when you will use your oxygen therapy, the frequency with which you will use oxygen and any changes in your flow setting with your doctor. If you have a new oxygen delivery device, talk to your doctor about how you can expect this device to be different. Always double-check that the oxygen delivery device you expect to use meets the demands of your new prescription. This can be clarified both with your doctor and your oxygen supplier. If you are using an Inogen portable oxygen concentrator for the first time for your home oxygen after a hospital stay, we would be happy to talk you through how your POC can meet your new oxygen therapy demands—just make sure you have your prescription with you when you call.
While you can provide anecdotal evidence about how your oxygen therapy is making you feel, your doctor may also suggest you use a pulse oximeter at home to test your oxygen levels. This gives you insight into how well your oxygen therapy is working. Typically, a healthy blood oxygen level should be between 95 and 100 percent when measured with a pulse oximeter. However, your normal blood oxygen levels may be lower due to your overall health. If you intend to use a pulse oximeter at home, talk to your doctor about what your blood oxygen levels are expected to be and when to be concerned. Your doctor may also choose to evaluate your oxygen levels periodically with an arterial blood gas (ABG) study to get as accurate a picture as possible about how your oxygen therapy is working. If your oxygen level is 88 or below on a pulse oximeter, or your blood oxygen level is below 75 mm Hg when measured by an ABG study, your doctor will likely choose to increase your oxygen intake. You should also let your doctor know if you are still experiencing significant shortness of breath while on oxygen therapy.
If you begin to experience relief from your symptoms, including decreased shortness of breath, more energy and better exercise tolerance, your oxygen therapy is likely going well. If that is the case, your oxygen levels should remain at a healthy level for a certain amount of time, even when you are not using your supplemental oxygen. If your doctor determines that your blood oxygen measurements look good for an acceptable amount of time, they may choose to begin weaning you off of higher levels of oxygen. As always, never adjust your oxygen therapy (in any way) without talking to your doctor first. They will need to provide clear instructions and adjust your prescription for you.
There are many things you can do to help make your home oxygen after a hospital stay as successful as possible. The most important thing you can do is follow your doctor’s instructions correctly. You need to use your oxygen therapy, and any other medications, exactly as prescribed to ensure your success. After that, your doctor may make any of the following suggestions after your hospital stay to help you with home oxygen therapy, depending on your overall health.
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