Safety of Portable Oxygen Concentrators

Every time we breathe, oxygen enters our respiratory system and is discharged into our blood stream through our lungs and circulatory system. Oxygen is the second most abundant element in the earth’s atmosphere (air) and facilitates human and animal life. Oxygen also facilitates combustion, although oxygen itself is a safe gas and non-flammable. When in an oxygen-rich environment, however, flammable materials more readily burn. Portable Oxygen Concentrators provide the user with a level of freedom in mobility that might not otherwise be possible, supplying oxygen enriched air directly to the respiratory system. Portable Oxygen Concentrators (POCs) are safe. However, certain precautions should be taken to ensure continued safety, and if these precautions are adhered to, the use of a Portable Oxygen Concentrator will be safe even when traveling by car or plane.

The American Lung Association encourages safety precautions for use of POC devices that are worth taking note of, and that are summarized here:

  1. Avoid any open flames in the presence of oxygen use. This would include matches, cigarette lighters, candles or smoking in any form. If anyone wishes to smoke while you are using a Portable Oxygen Concentrator, kindly insist that they step outside or out of range of you and the unit.
  2. Exercise caution around other sources of heat such as portable electric or gas heaters, as well as ovens and stoves. Keep at least five feet between such sources of heat and POC oxygen sources.
  3. Avoid using petroleum based lotions or creams but rather use water-based products.
  4. Strictly follow the safety instructions provided by the oxygen supply company and the manufacturer.

Some other safety points to consider are:

  • Never use a Portable Oxygen Concentrator when the apparatus itself is in the trunk of your car.
  • Start the car before turning on the unit or charging it.
  • Do not leave the device in an automobile but take the unit with you.
  • If the unit has been in a cold environment, allow it to warm up before use.
  • Do not allow inlets or outlets of the unit to be blocked at any time. Use only a manufacturer’s or manufacturer approved carrying case when traveling outside the home with the portable unit.

Encouraging for those who use POCs when traveling, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) generally requires that air carriers (airlines) conducting passenger service must permit someone with a disability to use an FAA-approved portable oxygen concentrator on all flights of aircraft that hold more than 19 seats. The unit should have a manufacturer’s label indicating that the device meets the FAA requirements.

For those utilizing the benefits of a Portable Oxygen Concentrator, there is considerable freedom of mobility that will be gained, and by following simple safety guidelines, POC usage is safe and secure.

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