Home Oxygen After a Hospital Stay

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. 

Starting O2 Therapy

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. Doctor and Patient Doing Chest Exam

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

Adjusting O2 Therapy

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. 

How to Know If Your Oxygen Therapy Is Going Well

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.

How to Succeed with Your Home Oxygen Therapy

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. 

    • Ambulation: This is simply walking without assistance. It is important that you move your body soon, and regularly, after hospitalization to maximize blood flow and help you recover more quickly. After you return home from the hospital, you may not be able to walk without assistance at first, so you may need to start with a wheelchair, walker, scooter or cane until you gain your strength. However, even moving around regularly with these assistive devices will provide you with benefits.[1]
    • Breathing Exercises: Breathing exercises can help you learn to breathe more effectively, and they can help you catch your breath when you are struggling to breathe. You can also reteach yourself how to use the proper muscles when breathing to combat ineffective, and potentially harmful, breathing habits. Breathing exercises like pursed-lip breathing and diaphragmatic breathing are clinically proven to help you breathe more effectively.[2][3]
    • Coughing Techniques: Certain health conditions cause a buildup of mucus, which can make breathing difficult. In order to ensure that your airways are clear and you have an open airway, it can be helpful to practice certain coughing techniques. The huff-cough technique and deep controlled coughing can help you cough up excess mucus without exhausting yourself or hurting your throat.
    • Diet and Exercise: Maintaining a healthy diet, staying hydrated and getting moderate exercise are all very important to ensuring the success of your oxygen therapy, and they are especially essential factors when you are recovering after a hospital stay. People with breathing difficulties often require more energy to breathe than normal, so a healthy diet helps ensure that your body can heal and fight infection. Hydration is also critical to healing, and helps thin mucus, which helps you breathe better. Finally, exercise helps keep your lungs in shape, improves your circulation and helps you build stamina.[4]
    • Incentive Spirometry: Your doctor may recommend using an incentive spirometer to help keep your lungs healthy and working as they should. An incentive spirometer will help you practice slower, more effective breathing habits, and helps you build strength in your lungs if they have become weak.[5]
    • Maintain Your Equipment: Your oxygen equipment helps you breathe better, so it is important to make sure that it is in good shape. Talk to your oxygen supplier about how to ensure that your equipment is working the way it should. If you have an Inogen portable oxygen concentrator, there are a number of alerts that will help keep you informed about how your equipment is functioning. 





[1] “What Is Ambulation?” Life & Health Care, Life & Health Care, Inc., 7 Sept. 2018, lifeandhealthcare.com/glossary/ambulation/.

[2] Sakhaei, Shahriar, et al. “The Impact of Pursed-Lips Breathing Maneuver on Cardiac, Respiratory, and Oxygenation Parameters in COPD Patients.” Open Access Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences, Republic of Macedonia, 20 Oct. 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6236030/.

[3] Fernandes, Marcelo, et al. “Efficacy of Diaphragmatic Breathing in Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – Marcelo Fernandes, Alberto Cukier, Maria Ignêz Zanetti Feltrim, 2011.” SAGE Journals, 15 Nov. 2011, journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1479972311424296.

[4] “Diet and Nutrition for Energy with COPD.” Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, 14 Sept. 2018, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9451-nutritional-guidelines-for-people-with-copd.

[5] Dugdale, David C. “Using an Incentive Spirometer: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 29 Sept. 2019, medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000451.htm.

Additional sources:

Jacobs, Susan S, et al. “Optimizing Home Oxygen Therapy. An Official American Thoracic Society Workshop Report.” Annals of the American Thoracic Society, American Thoracic Society Journals, 2017, www.atsjournals.org/doi/full/10.1513/AnnalsATS.201809-627WS.

Khor, Yet Hong, et al. “Post-Hospitalization Short-Term Oxygen Therapy: Use of a Clinical Management Pathway and Long-Term Follow-Up.” American Association for Respiratory Care, Respiratory Care, 1 Mar. 2019, rc.rcjournal.com/content/64/3/272.

“Using Oxygen at Home.” Mount Nittany Health, Mount Nittany Health Foundation, 1 May 2016, www.mountnittany.org/articles/healthsheets/2997.


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