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Discharge Instructions: Using Oxygen at Home

Your health care provider has prescribed oxygen to help make breathing easier for you. You were shown in the hospital how to use your oxygen unit. Here are some guidelines on safely using oxygen at home. Do all steps each time you use your oxygen unit.

Oxygen tank valves showing flow rate

Woman wearing a nasal cannula.

Oxygen tank, gauge, humidifier bottle and cannula tubing.


General tips

  • Wash your hands before and after using your oxygen.

  • If you have questions after discharge, work with your health care provider and medical supply company to help you determine what is best for you.

  • Keep the equipment and tubing clean to help prevent breathing in germs. If you need information about cleaning or maintaining your oxygen equipment, the medical supply company can help.

Step 1: Check your supply

  • Pressurize your oxygen tank.

  • Check the oxygen gauge on the tank to be sure you have enough. Your medical supply company will tell you when to call. Or, they will deliver your oxygen on a regular schedule.

  • If you have a humidifier bottle, check the water level. When the level is at or below one-half (1/2) full, refill it with sterile or distilled water. Ask your medical supply company representative how often you should change your humidifier bottle, if you have one. It is important in preventing germs.

Step 2: Attach the tubing

  • Attach the cannula tubing to your oxygen source as you have been shown.

  • Be sure the tubing is not bent or blocked.

Step 3: Set your prescribed flow rate

  • Set the oxygen to flow at the rate your health care provider has prescribed.

  • Never change this rate unless your provider tells you to.

Step 4: Insert the cannula

  • Insert the nasal cannula (nose tube) into your nose and breathe through your nose normally.

  • If you are not sure whether the oxygen is flowing, place the cannula in a glass of water. If the water bubbles, the oxygen is flowing.

Use oxygen safely

  • Avoid open flames. This includes cigarettes, matches, candles, fireplaces, gas burners, pipes, or anything else that could start a fire.

  • Don't smoke or be around others who are smoking.

  • Keep oxygen tanks at least 5 feet from gas stoves, space heaters, electric or gas heaters, or any heat source.

  • Keep the door to the room open so that air circulates and it is not stuffy.

  • Protect your oxygen tank from being knocked over. Store the oxygen tank upright in a secure, approved storage device.

  • Turn the tank off right away if it is knocked over and makes a hissing noise. If the regulator breaks or you cannot safely turn the tank off, remove the tubing and leave the room. Then call the supply company or the fire department for help right away.

  • Be careful not to trip over the tubing of your oxygen tank.

  • Don't use lotions or creams that contain petroleum jelly. This substance can be flammable when mixed with oxygen.

  • Turn oxygen off when you are not using it.

  • Always follow the instructions for safe use as recommended by your medical supply company.

  • Make sure you know what to do in an emergency. Your emergency numbers should include 911 (or your area's emergency number), your health care provider, and your medical supply company.



When to seek medical care

Call your health care provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • Pale skin or a blue tint to your lips or fingernails

  • Increased shortness of breath, wheezing, or other changes from your usual breathing, even with oxygen in place

  • Confusion, restlessness or more anxiety than usual

  • Chest pain


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