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Oxygen Therapy Side Effects

What Oxygen Therapy Side Effects Should I Be Aware Of?

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 body’s demand for oxygen, usually above 89%.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  Here are some oxygen therapy side effects to take note of:

1. 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.

2. Fire Hazard

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.
  • Don’t use oxygen near an open heat source, such as a wall furnace or electric stove.
  • Avoid using personal care products containing petroleum.

3. Oxygen Toxicity

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

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 that you can get from 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.

43 thoughts on “Oxygen Therapy Side Effects”

  1. Avatar JAD DON says:

    I have been looking at a product called MyPureMist. Is this product good for people like me with COPD? My nasel passages get stuffed up even though I us Ayr. Thanks

    1. Hello and thank you for your comment. I have not used this particular product or even heard of it, but I can share my own experience with steam inhalation. I was diagnosed with asthma, although I think it's more like cough-variant asthma. This is a type of asthma in which a dry, hacking cough is the only symptom. When I get an attack, it can last a couple of months. Breathing treatments, inhalers etc., don't work; what does work is steam inhalation.

      I put a pot on the stove and add some essential oils, set it to boil and when it's ready, I remove it from the stove and put a towel over my head breathing deeply for about 15 minutes. I have considered purchasing a steam inhaler, but have not gotten around to it. My suggestion to you is to try it, because it has a money back guarantee. You can always return it if it doesn't work for your particular symptoms.

      I hope this information has helped. Let me know if you have any more questions. Also, if you do use this product, drop back by and give us your review.

      <strong>Please Note:</strong> Always check with your physician before starting or stopping any medication or treatment for COPD.

  2. Avatar Cia says:

    I have just been put on Oxygen therapy for sleep apnea. Controversial…I know…I've been reading everything I can find but my pulse-ox goes very low at night, they tell me and I have awakened in the hospital several times to find myself on a ventilator when it went so low I didn't wake up. So, I have only one question at this time, but I really would appreciate it if someone could shed some light on the subject. Several years ago one of my best friends had a little girl with leukemia. The child ultimately got an infection and passed away. We were told that her being on oxygen for so long caused her lungs to weaken and get tiny holes in them and that is what killed her. I have never heard of this before or since and I would like to know if it is even possible. Thank you for your help in advance!

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Cia, We are sorry to hear about your sleep apnea and your experiences waking up in the hospital due to low oxygen levels. While we have never heard of a situation like that of your friend's daughter, oxygen therapy is safe and effective when used correctly. Whenever you are starting or stopping an oxygen therapy treatment, you should work with your doctor to make sure that you have an adequate amount of oxygen.

  3. Avatar Liz says:

    I've just started using an oxygen concentrator for a similar reason to Cia. Have mild sleep apnea but also Pulmonary Hypertension so was recommended I use a CPAP machine. Could not tolerate it, would wake up feeling so tired from disturbed sleep. Another sleep test and Doc told me my oxygen saturation dropped when I was in REM sleep and heart rate went up and oxygen therapy may be the way to go for me. Still in the early stages but I am hopeful. Dry nasal passages is a problem yet to be solved. My PH is well controlled with medication and I am not limited in my day to day living, so anything that will help me further is well worth while.

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Liz, For dry nasal passages, try a moisturizing product such as AYR Saline Nasal Mist or AYR Nasal Gel. For more information on how CPAP machines work, please visit: https://www.inogen.com/blog/what-does-a-cpap-machine-do/

  4. Avatar sam says:

    i noticed the fire on my gas stove burning orang-ish instead of blue. my husband is on a concentrator. when we opened all the windows for a while, & turned off the oxygen concentrator, the fire burned blue again. orange fire on a gas stove is problematic in regard to carbon monoxide. do you think the concentrator is causing this problem? if so, does it mean it is faulty?

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Sam, No we do not think the oxygen concentrator is causing this problem. You should have your gas stove serviced by a professional.

  5. Avatar Anne says:

    Could being on oxygen therapy at night (at a level of 2) cause a persistent dry cough? My dear relative has sleep apnea and the doctor is experimenting with giving her 2 liters of O2 at night. Anyone else had this symptom?

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Anne, Oxygen therapy can cause side-effects like nasal dryness which may be the cause of your relatives' dry cough. Your relative should contact his or her primary care doctor, notify him or her of their symptoms so that their primary care doctor can diagnosis their symptoms.

  6. Avatar sarah says:

    I have been recently discharged from the hospital for bilateral pulmonary embolism, pulmonary infarction, and pulmonary effusion. My doctor has me on supplemental O2 to try to give my lungs a breeak but I have read that to much O2 can kill. With out the O2 i feel like I can't breath.

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Sarah, As mentioned in the blog post above, oxygen toxicity is a concern for people who are exposed to high concentrations of oxygen for long periods of time. However, our portable oxygen concentrators deliver oxygen on a pulse-dose basis, meaning oxygen is only delivered when the patient needs it and breathes in. Oxygen tanks release oxygen on a continuous basis, making oxygen toxicity a possibility, however to combat oxygen toxicity, the FDA recommends that when oxygen therapy is needed that the lowest effective dose is prescribed. We hope this information helps you when making a decision on what product you would like to use for your oxygen therapy needs.

  7. Avatar CHARLOTTE says:


    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Charlotte, Has your husband tried saline solutions like AYR Saline Nasal Mist? Saline nasal mists and gel may help reduce the side effects of oxygen therapy.

  8. Avatar Jodie says:

    What exactly is oxygen toxicity? Can it cause extreme pain, swelling and exhausted feeling toes feet and legs from too much oxygen?

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Jodie, We're actually working on a more detailed blog post about that right now. Common signs of oxygen toxicity are unconsciousness, difficulty breathing and/or chest pain. If you are concerned that you are receiving too much oxygen, please contact your primary care doctor so that she or he can diagnosis your symptoms and change your oxygen therapy prescription, if needed.

  9. Avatar Deborah says:

    My nose is constantly runny since beginning O2 therapy (2l daytime, 3l CPAP).

  10. Avatar Christine McDonnell says:

    I have been told I am oxygen intolerant I really do not understand it .Would oxygen therapy help me?

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Christine, What do you mean by oxygen intolerant? This isn't a term we're familiar with. Oxygen is a necessary element that humans need to survive. A person can not be oxygen intolerant. A person can be peanut or gluten intolerant, but they can not be oxygen intolerant. I hope this helps clear things up a bit.

  11. Avatar Donna Adkins says:

    Have there been any reports of a spouse living with a husband that uses oxygen at night with his c pap having increased sinus infections? The room temp seems to be much warmer since putting the machine in the bedroom. He does not have tanks.

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Donna, How often does your husband clean his CPAP machine? Regular maintenance and cleaning of your husband's CPAP machine should prevent bacteria from building up. For more information on how to clean a CPAP machine, please visit: https://www.verywell.com/how-to-clean-cpap-3015322

  12. Avatar Paula says:

    Hi is it safe for someone to be on oxygen all the time? this person has COPD set 2.5 has it on all night. is wanting to use it as much during the day. Are there side effects / and if there is what are they!

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Paula, When patients are prescribed oxygen therapy most of the time they are prescribed 24/7 oxygen. If your doctor has prescribed you oxygen 24/7 you should use your oxygen therapy device all night long at the flow setting your doctor has recommended. The side effects of oxygen are outlined in the blog post above. For more information on COPD and safe oxygen levels, please visit: https://www.inogen.com/blog/safe-oxygen-levels/ and https://www.inogen.com/resources/living-with-copd/copd-symptoms/

  13. Avatar Ellen Schwartz says:

    I just had an outpatient procedure where I woke up coughing and feeling like they had placed something down my throat which they hadn't. Right before I went out they were placing the oxygen on me & I felt a burn when I breathed in but before I could say anything I was out. I was only under for 20 min. They did send me for a chest x-ray but it was negative. It has been 5 days nd I still have the cough.

  14. Avatar theodore says:

    hi my name is ted I am on oxygen for sleep I am on 2 liters at night now during the day my throat feels liked it is swoolen I put on my oxygen it goes away then I take it off my doctor does not know what is wrong maby some had happen to then thanks

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Theodore, If your primary care doctor is unable to diagnosis your symptoms, you should ask him or her to refer you to a specialist. You may need to see a ENT (Ears, Nose, and Throat) Specialist or a Pulmonologist in order to be properly diagnosed.

  15. Avatar Natalie says:

    I have problem with my breathing and use oxygen at
    night, but my breathing is bad during the day but my
    oxygen levels are all as in the high 90's.it my heart values leaking, will a liquid oxygen help me??

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Natalie, Please consult your primary care doctor, as he or she is familiar with your medical history. Your primary care doctor will be able to evaluate your symptoms and can recommend treatment or refer you to a specialist if needed.

  16. Avatar Rosemary says:

    I am on oxygen 24/7 I shake a lot and my heart beats really hard to where I can’t move so I sit here till this feeling goes away. Can you give me advise?

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Rosemary, Although breathing exercises may help, if you're experiencing a fast heart beat you should consult your primary care doctor immediately. Especially if you are unable to move. Please consult your primary care doctor as soon as possible.
      For information on breathing exercises, please visit: https://www.inogen.com/blog/copd-breathing-exercises/

  17. Avatar Sue says:

    My 98 year old mother has aortic stenosis and constant dizziness. Although the fingertip O2 test is always well into the 90’s, I am wondering if she would still benefit from supplemental oxygen?
    Thanks for your comments.

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Sue, Generally medical oxygen is not required if your blood oxygen level is more than 88%. Your mother's doctor would need to evaluate her health in order for her to be prescribed supplemental oxygen. For more information on supplemental oxygen please visit: https://www.inogen.com/resources/oxygen-therapy-treatment/what-is-oxygen-therapy/

  18. Avatar Carolyn Katzoff says:

    Hi, I have been on supplemental Oxygen since 2008.
    I was told that I had my pulse ox was low, below 90. After a while they had me do a walk test. It dropped
    lower and then I had to add to daytime too.
    I am now on 3 in the day and 4 at night, I have had
    overnight studies also. I'm finding it pretty difficult
    finding a doctor that understands, can explain and this silly but problematic disease time ,e

    thanks, Carolyn

  19. Avatar cheryl dicker says:

    hi name name is cheryl and back in nov of 2017 i had serval heart attacks the doc said there's to many scars to count i'm on 4 liters of oxogen! i got to where i was feeling better going longer w/o my oxygen! then when my doc of 10 yrs retired i had to find a new doc she put me of 3 different time release med's ( not the same tme but different each month) i feel like what strngh ad energy i had is gone do i need a new doc! i have a lung specialist and he said they need to keep me where i'm at does that make sence to you cause i am on medicaid

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Cheryl, Your lung specialist may be referring to your insurance coverage on your oxygen therapy solution. If you are still using supplemental oxygen, you may want to learn more about our purchase options on our lightweight portable oxygen concentrators. The Inogen One G3 has flow settings 1-5, for more information, please visit: https://www.inogen.com/products/g3-systems/ You can also speak with an Oxygen Specialist to learn more. Please call 1-800-374-9038 to speak to an Oxygen Specialist today.

  20. Avatar Marsha says:

    Liz, What medications are you on for your PH?

    Thank you.

  21. Avatar Ron Edwards says:

    Hi Cheryl,
    Have COPD & heart problem,have been put on oxygen at 2 and I now find my breathing is worse,could this be the oxygen and I forgot too mention I have a Cpap machine.

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Dear Ron, Oxygen is ordered by a physician as supplement just like vitamins- the lung, for what ever reason are not able to provide all of the oxygen the body requires. The addition of supplemental oxygen is to assist the lungs in providing what the body requires. Therefore the addition of oxygen should help with breathing, never hinder it.

  22. Avatar Barbara Mims says:

    I have been on oxygen since January 2019. Do oxygen take out your hair

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Barbara,
      Oxygen encourages a healthy scalp that generates growth of strong and healthy hair. … A lack of oxygen affects all cells, including the hair cells and can cause premature hair thinning and hair loss.

  23. Avatar Duncan says:

    My problem and Ron's are very similar and I can't believe they're not related to oxygen. I've been on oxygen for the past nearly 7 years and for most of that time, using oxygen, whether by concentrator or metal tank, for even 2 or 3 hours nightly makes me more short of breath the next day.

    I'm at a loss…, what else could be causing this?? It truly feels deadly and I can't believe there hasn't been more research into this.

  24. Avatar Carolann Lucente says:

    Hello: I am currently on oxygen for what my cardiologist diagnosed as diastole dysfunction. I have been using it all winter. I sleep with it on and use it almost all day now. It has a 40 foot long tube that I pull around when I am moving about the house. I hate the tube, I am always tripping on it, wheeling over it with my walker, so bothersome. I also sleep with it at night, no problems there. I do wake in the morning occasionally to find the cannula on the floor next to my bed. My questions is that I wonder if the oxygen is causing my symptoms now. I feel like my legs are so heavy, I also have one calf that is larger than the other and also my sinuses and head feel like they are drying out. I am concerned about the oxygen and my brain function, as it seems like I am getting early Alzheimer's. I am also very unbalanced, relying heavily on my walker for moving about. I am 74 years old. I have an appointment with my cardiologist in one month. Can you help me with the answers to these things? Thank you.

    1. Inogen Inogen says:

      Hi Carolann, Oxygen should be helping with your diagnosis, if you have noticed your symptoms have gotten worse please call you physician to be seen on a more urgent basis. Oxygen flowing into your nose can cause sinuses to dry out- there is a product that can be purchased over the counter that can be used with oxygen, ask the pharmacist.

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