Using Medical Oxygen Safely

What Is an Oxygen Tank?

Oxygen tanks are a type of storage system that holds oxygen or liquid oxygen in a pressurized container. The size and appearance of an oxygen tank can vary depending on the purpose of the container, where it is used and the mobility requirements.

Using Oxygen Tanks in Medical Therapy

Oxygen therapy, the term used to describe oxygen that doctors prescribe, requires a medical oxygen tank and an appropriate breathing device. Doctors use oxygen therapy in emergency rooms and during surgical procedures, as well as prescribing oxygen therapy on a long-term basis for patients who require oxygen treatment for a medical condition. Patients may need to learn how to use an oxygen tank if long-term oxygen therapy is required for medical conditions such as:

How to Use an Oxygen Tank to Administer Oxygen

Getting oxygen from the tank to the individual requires that the patient knows how to use an oxygen tank properly. Oxygen therapy usually requires a mask or nasal cannula, which is attached to the tank via a hose. A mask is placed on the individual’s face over the mouth and nose, while a nasal cannula is placed directly in the nostrils.

When learning how to use an oxygen tank that holds pressurized oxygen, it’s essential to understand how it will be used since oxygen tanks are used in several different settings and situations. The proper use of a medical oxygen tank and its dimensions will vary based on the tank a doctor determines is most appropriate.

Medical Oxygen Tank Safety

Many patients who use home and portable oxygen tanks wonder about oxygen tank safety and the safety of storing the tanks. When oxygen tank safety is first and foremost on your mind each time you use your oxygen tank, the potential for fire and other hazards is minimized. Still, it is a good idea to be well educated and up to date on oxygen tank safety to ensure that you are taking all the necessary precautions.

Precautions around oxygen use safety are as follows:

  • Keep the tanks at least ten feet from stoves, fireplaces, candles or any other open flame.
  • Do not smoke while on oxygen therapy, and do not allow others to smoke near you.
  • Do not use electric razors near oxygen tanks due to the potential for sparks.
  • Do not use oil, grease or other petroleum-based products on or near the tank, and do not use petroleum-based products on your skin while using an oxygen tank.
  • Mark each room where you have a tank with signs stating there are oxygen cylinders in use.
  • Ensure that all the smoke detectors in the house are working.
  • Alert the fire department and all utility companies that there is home oxygen therapy in use. They can help if there is a loss of power or failure of service.
  • Keep tubing well out of the way, and do not let it become bound up in furniture or create a tripping hazard.

How to Improve Your Oxygen Use Safety

Once you know how to use an oxygen tank safely and take the proper safety measures, you can ensure that your oxygen use safety is suitable for regular oxygen treatment. However, if you would prefer a different method of delivery for your oxygen treatment that is less burdensome and a bit safer, you may want to consider using an oxygen concentrator instead.

When it comes to oxygen use safety, oxygen concentrators are a significantly lower safety risk than oxygen tanks. Because oxygen concentrators pull oxygen from the surrounding air and compress and purify it, rather than storing oxygen for later use, they do not leak, which considerably reduces any danger of combustion. Personal oxygen use safety should be a consideration as well, and because oxygen concentrators do not need to be refilled, you can receive oxygen continuously as long as your battery is charged or you have access to power. Oxygen concentrators are safe to use at home or while traveling, including during air travel.

In addition to being safer, oxygen concentrators are much easier to use, less awkward to transport and do not require refills or replacement, which can ultimately save you time and money. For patients who require regular oxygen therapy, but are still able to be out and about and active, the small size and minimal weight of portable oxygen concentrators can be life changing. If you are unsure how to decide whether the oxygen tank or oxygen concentrator delivery system is right for you, learn about the pros and cons of oxygen tanks and oxygen concentrators here.

Inogen Oxygen Concentrators Increase Oxygen Use Safety

Inogen began with the idea that oxygen therapy should adjust to the life of the patient and not the other way around. With that in mind, Inogen developed oxygen concentrators to make oxygen treatment easier, more convenient and less of a hassle. Offering both stationary and portable oxygen concentrators, Inogen has designed each concentrator to work safely, quietly and efficiently to help improve the quality of life for each user. Each Inogen oxygen concentrator can be used continuously as long as you have power or battery life, making them safe for use 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For users traveling by air, all Inogen One portable oxygen concentrators are FAA approved.

Inogen oxygen concentrators are safe, but it is always a good idea to maintain oxygen use safety precautions when using any oxygen concentrators. Follow all safety instructions provided with your concentrator system and make sure you stay away from open flames, cigarettes and heat sources, as well as avoiding petroleum-based products. When traveling with either your Inogen One G5,  Inogen One G4 or your Inogen One G3 Portable Oxygen Concentrators, make sure you start your car before turning on your concentrator or charging it. Do not use your portable oxygen concentrators while they are in the trunk of a car, and never leave them in your vehicle. Allow a cold oxygen concentrator to warm up before use and ensure that the inlets and outlets of the portable and stationary oxygen concentrator units are never blocked.

With Inogen Oxygen Concentrators, oxygen use safety will not be a big worry. Simply follow the instructions and enjoy the improved freedom, mobility and independence an Inogen oxygen concentrator can offer. There is no need to be weighed down by cumbersome oxygen tanks or worry about tank leaks. With Inogen Oxygen Concentrators, you can safely enjoy oxygen anytime, anywhere.

Frequently Asked Questions: Oxygen Tank Safety

What are the dangers of oxygen tanks?

Oxygen use safety is different depending on the delivery system you use for your medical oxygen. There is a risk of leakage with oxygen tanks, particularly if you do not know how to use an oxygen tank safely. With the risk of oxygen leaks comes an increased risk of fire and/or explosion as oxygen feeds a fire and makes it burn hotter, so it is essential to avoid all open flames and keep a safe distance from other heat sources. It is also important to avoid using flammable products, particularly petroleum-based, on your body when using medical oxygen. Make sure you talk to your oxygen supplier about oxygen tank safety and how to make sure you have all of your tubing and mask or cannula connected properly to minimize the likelihood of leaks. You should also ensure that you know how to properly fill smaller, portable oxygen tanks correctly so that oxygen does not leak. Finally, make sure you do not adjust the flow of your oxygen without first speaking to your doctor. 

What should you avoid while on medical oxygen?

The most important thing to avoid is being near fire or open flames, so that includes smoking. Many patients requiring oxygen are smokers, but it is critical that all open flames be avoided to avoid the increased risk of fire or explosion. Do not take chances with oxygen use safety. Avoid all heat sources when using oxygen tanks or concentrators, and if you are unsure, talk to your supplier or doctor first. 

Can I cook while using oxygen?

Oxygen use safety while cooking depends entirely on how you intend to cook. Ideally, you should remove your oxygen before cooking at all, and if you intend to cook on the stove or in the oven, removing your oxygen first is essential. However, if you must cook while receiving oxygen therapy, you can use a microwave oven while using oxygen. Just make sure that you do not place any metal inside the microwave, and stand 6 feet away while it is running. 

Are used oxygen tanks safe to use?

This is somewhat complicated. Medical oxygen is considered a pharmaceutical, which means that oxygen tanks are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In order to ensure that your oxygen tank, and oxygen contained within that tank, is medically sound, safe and pure, manufacturers and authorized oxygen suppliers must meet the requirements outlined by the FDA.[1] As such, they must be certified to provide and/or refill medical oxygen tanks to ensure that the tanks are safe to use. While certified suppliers can provide you with used oxygen tanks, they must first be carefully and thoroughly inspected to ensure that the used oxygen tanks you receive are working correctly. Alternately, you can purchase an oxygen refill system, which is an oxygen concentrator designed expressly for the purpose of refilling your own used oxygen tanks. Make sure you know how to test the efficacy of your used oxygen tanks and get them inspected regularly to ensure that they are working properly and are safe to use. 

Can you travel with an oxygen tank?

Oxygen tanks are safe to travel with if you are traveling by car, train or cruise ship. Oxygen tanks are not permitted on airplanes. If you intend to travel by car, train or boat, you will need to plan ahead by bringing a sufficient supply of oxygen. Check with your travel companies to see how many tanks are permitted and find out if there are any restrictions. Never store oxygen supplies in your luggage; oxygen tanks must be stored upright and secured well before your trip gets under way. Always check for leaks before you go.  

What’s the safest way to store an oxygen tank?

Oxygen tanks must always be stored upright, in a well-ventilated area, well away from any heat sources. Ideally, they should be secured in a stand or cart that will prevent them from tipping over or falling. It is essential that you keep your oxygen equipment at least 15 feet away from all open flames or electrical appliances or other items that could produce sparks.

Is an oxygen tank the same as an oxygen concentrator? Do these safety tips apply? 

Oxygen tanks and oxygen concentrators are different oxygen delivery devices. While a tank contains a finite amount of liquid or compressed oxygen, an oxygen concentrator pulls from the surrounding air to purify and concentrate oxygen for you. Though some safety tips are common to both oxygen delivery devices, including keeping your oxygen system away from heat sources and in a well-ventilated area and ensuring that you do not use flammable products while receiving oxygen therapy, there are also different safety requirements. Oxygen concentrators cannot leak, so they are less likely to create an oxygen-rich environment. Additionally, oxygen concentrators are easy to take with you and store safely, which is why many are FAA approved for air travel. Overall, oxygen concentrators are a lower safety risk than oxygen tanks.


[1] “Compressed Medical Gases.” Compliance Program Guidance Manual, Food and Drug Administration, 15 March 2015,

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