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Safety precautions for using supplemental oxygen

The following precautions will keep those who need to use supplemental oxygen safe.

Initial setup

  • You need to be informed about how to use your equipment safely and correctly. Do not accept delivery of unfamiliar equipment until your oxygen supply company has taught you how to use it.
  • Check the label on every oxygen container before you use it. Liquid oxygen should have “Oxygen Refrigerated Liquid U.S.P.” on the label. Compressed oxygen cylinders should have “Oxygen Compressed U.S.P.” on the label. If the label of a container reads differently, do not use the container. Call your oxygen supply company immediately.
  • Keep a new tank of oxygen available at all times. Even if you use an oxygen machine (concentrator), you will need the tank for leaving the house and during power failures. Have a back-up oxygen system to use in an emergency.
  • Order a new supply of oxygen two to three days before needed or when the gauge reads 1/4 full.
  • If a tank is used, be sure it is attached to a stable cart so it won't fall or roll.
  • Keep a written list of what rate (how much) oxygen being used. Never increase the flow rate on your oxygen without your physician's permission or above the prescribed level.
  • Keep the phone number near of the company that brings the oxygen to your home. In the event of problems, call them.

Using and maintaining tanks

  • Be sure to know how to turn the oxygen on and off, and set the flow rate.
  • Check the tubing if you are not sure the oxygen is coming through the tube. Look for kinks, blockages, or to see if the tubing has become disconnected from the oxygen container. Also check if the oxygen is turned on.
  • Use a water-based lubricant, rather than petroleum jelly, on the lips and cheeks.
  • If the nasal cannula rubs the upper lip, patients can put a small piece of gauze or fabric under it for padding. There are also commercial products that make this tubing more comfortable for the nose and ears.
  • Keep all cords and tubing neat. Do not leave cords or tubing running across an area where you or someone else may trip on it.
  • Keep oxygen containers from becoming too hot. Store containers in an area with good air flow. Never leave an oxygen container in a car trunk or a hot vehicle.
  • Keep oxygen containers secured in an upright position.
  • Oxygen containers should always be secured in a stand, holder, or to a fixed object. Containers can be damaged if they fall over.
  • Oxygen in cylinders is stored under pressure. If the cylinder is damaged, it can become a missile and shoot off at a high rate of speed. This may cause serious injury. Aim the cylinder valve away from you and other people when opening or closing the valve. Always open or close the valve slowly.
  • If an oxygen container is dropped or damaged in some way, do not use it. If you hear loud hissing from an oxygen cylinder after it is damaged, get away from it immediately. Let your oxygen supply company know about any cylinders that may be damaged.
  • If you hear oxygen hissing or if the tank empties too fast, turn off all flames like candles. Remember to also turn off the pilot light on a stove. Open windows to help clear out any extra oxygen. Call the company that brought the oxygen system to your home right away.

Avoiding fires

Oxygen can cause fires. It is very important patients protect themselves, their family, and their house when using oxygen.

  • Call your fire department and tell them that oxygen is being used in the house.
  • Keep a working fire extinguisher within easy reach. Make sure you and your family knows how to use it.
  • Do not smoke or go near sparks or flame while using oxygen. Keep sparks and flames away from tanks, oxygen machines, and tubing.
  • If a fire starts, turn off the oxygen right away and leave the house.
  • Keep the oxygen container away from heat and open flames, such as a gas stove.
  • Keep the oxygen container upright. Turn off the oxygen system when it is not being used.
  • Do not put the oxygen tubing under clothing, bed covers, furniture, or carpets
  • Put signs on all the doors of your house to let visitors and emergency personnel know that oxygen is in use. “No smoking” signs should be posted as well.
  • Do not use oil, lubricants, or anything greasy on or around your oxygen equipment.
  • Do not use anything flammable while you are wearing your oxygen. This includes cleaning fluid, gasoline, paint thinner, aerosols, or alcohol-containing sprays.
  • Do not use electric razors, hair dryers, or any electrical appliance that has a motor while you are wearing your oxygen.
  • Avoid using appliances with control boxes, such as heating pads, while wearing your oxygen. The control box may cause a spark.If a fire starts, turn off the oxygen right away and leave the house.
  • Keep the oxygen container away from open flames, such as candles, fireplaces, gas stoves, or hot water heaters. Do not go within eight feet of an open flame while you are wearing your oxygen.
  • Turn your oxygen container or concentrator off when you are not using your oxygen.
  • Watch for signs of oxygen leaking from the container. If you hear a loud hissing from your tank or if it empties too fast, stay away from the container. Open windows to help clear out any extra oxygen in the room. Call the company that brought the oxygen system to your home right away.
  • Do not use an extension cord with an oxygen concentrator. Also, do not plug the concentrator into an outlet that has other appliances plugged into it.
  • Turn off your oxygen concentrator and use a backup oxygen system if you have any of the following problems. Call the company that brought the oxygen system to your home to tell them of your problems.

Avoiding electrical shock

  • When using an oxygen concentrator, plug the power cord into a grounded electrical outlet. A grounded outlet has three holes, and can take a three-pronged plug. Never alter a plug or use an adapter that allows you to plug a three-pronged plug into a two-hole outlet. This can ruin your electrical equipment, cause an electrical shock, and even cause a fire.
  • Do not plug in your oxygen concentrator if the cord looks damaged. Call your oxygen supply company.
  • Do not use an extension cord to plug in your oxygen concentrator.
  • Do not plug the concentrator into an outlet that has other appliances plugged into it. Overloading an electrical outlet can cause a fire.
  • Unplug the concentrator before cleaning the unit or the filter. Make sure your hands are dry before you plug the concentrator back in.
  • Make sure your oxygen supply company services and inspects your oxygen concentrator regularly. It should be serviced every 9,000 hours of use.

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References

Last modified: 01.02.2012
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