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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.

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Last Updated: February 24, 2012