Oxygen Therapy | American Lung Association

Oxygen Therapy

What Is It?

Oxygen is a gas that is vital to human life. It is one of the gases that is found in the air we breathe; however, if you have a chronic lung disease you may need additional (supplemental) oxygen for your organs to function normally.

Here are some conditions that may require supplemental oxygen:

Oxygen therapy is a treatment that provides you with supplemental oxygen. Although oxygen therapy is common in the hospital, it can also be used at home. There are several devices used for the delivery of oxygen at home: oxygen concentrators, a liquid system or compressed oxygen. Your healthcare provider will help you choose the equipment that works best for you. Oxygen is usually delivered through nasal prongs (an oxygen cannula) or a face mask. Oxygen equipment can attach to other medical equipment like CPAP machines and ventilators.

What to Expect

  • Some people only need oxygen when exercising or sleeping, while others need it all the time. Your doctor will prescribe your oxygen at a specific flow rate and a specific number of hours per day—it is very important that you use your oxygen as prescribed.
  • A medical supply company can help provide home oxygen therapy and equipment, and demonstrate how to use them correctly.
  • Oxygen can sometimes cause nosebleeds or a dry nose, and the oxygen cannula may irritate your skin.
  • Portable oxygen can be heavy and make travel difficult. If so, you can ask your medical supply company if there are lighter options.

Want to Learn More about Oxygen Therapy?

Visit supplemental oxygen in our COPD section for more information on oxygen therapy, including details on oxygen delivery devices and important safety tips.

    This content was developed in partnership with the CHEST Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the American College of Chest Physicians.

    Approved by Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel. Last reviewed June 14, 2017.

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