Oxygen Therapy: Getting Started with Oxygen in Metal Tanks

Oxygen cylinders are metal tanks that store compressed oxygen and can be used in and out of the home. In this video, we will share how to use and care for oxygen in metal tanks. 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.

Oxygen cylinders are metal tanks that store compressed oxygen are often prescribed home oxygen concentrators.

You can use these tanks at home or on the go. The tanks come in a variety of sizes. The smaller the tank, the less oxygen it holds. Your healthcare provider will recommend the right size tank for you based on how much extra oxygen your body needs.

If you use a home concentrator, your supplier might also provide you with a large "back-up" metal tank that can last 24 hours, should the power go out.

Your tank will have an oxygen regulator that shows you how much oxygen is left in your tank.

Keep your eye on the regulator so you know when you are close to running out of oxygen.

Some people will use a conserver device, which delivers oxygen in "pulses," or bursts, when you inhale.

This type of device helps you use less oxygen, but it is not right for everyone. Ask your doctor if using a "pulse flow" is right for you.

When your oxygen is delivered by the company, the supplier will show you how to begin the flow of oxygen and also turn it off. 

To get started at home with a metal tank, attach the regulator or conserver if you use one.

Then attach your nasal cannula or face mask and turn on the oxygen to the prescribed flow rate. If you are using a conserver, you won’t feel oxygen flow out of the nasal cannula until it is connected and you take a breath.

You can be mobile while using metal oxygen tanks. Tanks can be wheeled around in tank carriers for patients that need high flow rates and smaller tanks can be carried in bags with over the shoulder straps. Single tanks not in carriers or in use should be kept lying flat so they do not fall over.

Your oxygen delivery company will drop off new tanks when it is time for a refill.

Some people use a special device called a home fill system. Clean the machine's filter once a month by removing the filter that allows them to refill their own tanks. Ask your doctor if this is right for you.

Remember to care for your system by washing your nasal cannula or face mask weekly with mild dish soap and warm water and let air dry. Clean them more frequently if you are sick. Be sure not to get water in the tubing and replace it if it is damaged. You can get replacement tubing from your oxygen supplier.

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.

Page last updated: June 7, 2024

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