Oxygen Therapy: Getting Started with a Portable Oxygen Concentrator

Portable Oxygen Concentrators, or POCS, are light, small and quiet devices that allow you to receive supplemental oxygen while out of the home. We’ll share how to use and take care of your POC in this video. Always consult your doctor if you have questions about your oxygen therapy prescription and using your oxygen device.

Produced with support from Three Lakes Partners.

Many patients find using portable oxygen concentrators, or POCs, to be helpful when needing supplemental oxygen away from home.

POCs are generally light, small and quiet.

They work similarly to home concentrators by extracting oxygen from the surrounding air and turning it into condensed oxygen for you to breathe.
There are several models of portable oxygen concentrators on the market.

POCs deliver oxygen by pulse dose in bursts. Some units can also deliver oxygen continuously at a steady rate. The pulse dose is delivered each time you inhale.

Your pulse dose may be different than your continuous flow setting, so make sure to check with your healthcare provider to ensure that your oxygen flows are meeting your needs.

A POC uses a rechargeable battery that is connected to the bottom of the device. Your battery life will depend on your flow rate and how fast you are breathing. POCs can be conveniently recharged by plugging the cord into a power source to refill the condenser. You can purchase a car adaptor to recharge the unit while driving.

To get started using your POC, attach your nasal cannula. Turn on the device and set the flow prescribed by your doctor. You can look at the display to see how much battery life is remaining. Always carry an extra battery if you think you might be out of the house for a long time.

Care for your device by weekly with mild dish soap and water. Be sure not to get water in the nasal cannula tubing and replace it if it is damaged. You can get replacement tubing from your oxygen supplier. Follow the directions from the manufacturer for cleaning the filter for your device.

It might be daunting at first to get started with a new oxygen device, but with practice, you will gain confidence and adjust to life with oxygen therapy.

For more information, visit Lung.org/oxygen.

Warning about over the counter (OTC) portable oxygen concentrators: You may have seen online advertisements for non-prescription, portable oxygen concentrators (POCs). While these are often more affordable, if you have a lung disease like COPD or pulmonary fibrosis, which requires you to use prescription oxygen, these OTC devices may not meet your oxygen needs.

There are many portable oxygen concentrators on the market but in general look for devices that:

  • are FDA-approved
  • require a prescription
  • meet your oxygen needs based on your prescription (like type of oxygen flow or the maximum number of liters of oxygen per minute)

If you have questions or concerns about portable oxygen concentrators, talk with your healthcare team, or contact the Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872 and press 2) or submit a question.

Page last updated: May 5, 2023

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