Accessible Search Form           Advanced Search


Living With Oxygen Therapy

Oxygen therapy helps many people function better and be more active. It also may help:

  • Decrease shortness of breath and fatigue (tiredness)
  • Improve sleep in some people who have sleep-related breathing disorders
  • Increase the lifespan of some people who have COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)

Although you may need oxygen therapy continuously or for long periods, it doesn't have to limit your daily routine. Portable oxygen units can make it easier for you to move around and do many daily activities. Talk with your doctor if you have questions about whether certain activities are safe for you.

Portable oxygen units also can make it easier for you to travel. Often, the rules for traveling with oxygen vary depending on the transportation carrier (for example, the airline or bus company). If you need oxygen while traveling, plan in advance. Contact your transportation carrier to find out their specific rules.

Also, talk with your doctor and home equipment provider if you're planning to travel. They can help you plan for your oxygen needs and fill out any required medical forms.

Ongoing Care

To make sure you're getting the full benefits of oxygen therapy, visit your doctor regularly. Your doctor can check your progress and adjust your oxygen therapy as needed.

Never change the amount of oxygen you're taking or adjust the flow rate of your oxygen on your own. Discuss any problems or side effects with your doctor first. He or she may recommend adjusting your treatment.

Talk with your doctor about when you should contact him or her or seek emergency medical care. Your doctor can advise you about what to do if you have:

  • Increased shortness of breath, wheezing, or other changes from your usual breathing.
  • Fever, increased mucus production, or other symptoms of an infection.
  • A blue tint to your lips or fingernails. This is a sign that your body isn't getting enough oxygen.
  • Confusion, restlessness, or more anxiety than usual.

During an emergency, go to your nearest hospital emergency room or call 9–1–1. You might want to wear a medical ID bracelet or necklace to alert others to your medical needs.

Rate This Content:

previous topic next topic
Oxygen Therapy Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. To find clinical trials that are currently underway for Oxygen Therapy, visit

February 24, 2012 Last Updated Icon

The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.