Oxygen Therapy: What is it? Benefits, Indications, Side Effects and Recommendations

Sometimes referred to as O2 therapy, it is a medical intervention that provides additional oxygen, one of the most abundant gases in the universe.

It is generally indicated for people suffering from sudden or prolonged health conditions.

The air we breathe contains approximately 21% oxygen. Although this may be enough for people with healthy lungs, it may not be enough for chronic lung diseases. That’s where oxygen therapy comes in (O2 treatment).

Will I benefit from oxygen therapy?

Oxygen therapy may be prescribed if you have been diagnosed with a combination of the following conditions:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and emphysema.
  • Interstitial lung disease includes idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
  • Cystic fibrosis.
  • Lung cancer.
  • Bronchiectasis.
  • Pulmonary hypertension.
  • Severe heart disease

You may also be prescribed oxygen before a specific lung condition is identified.

A specialist must evaluate it, who will advise you if additional oxygen is helpful for your condition. Different lung conditions require other administration, and oxygen prescriptions are tailored to your individual needs. Oxygen therapy does not help all people with lung problems.

Oxygen is a medicinal gas and is prescribed like any other medicine.


The Regulatory Agency regulates it for Medicines and Health Products. It would help if you use your oxygen as prescribed and check it regularly to adjust your prescription according to your needs. Misuse of oxygen can be harmful.

If you experience new headache symptoms, a faster than average pulse rate, disorientation or confusion, you should inform your breathing team or GP immediately.

How does oxygen therapy help?

Oxygen therapy helps improve low oxygen levels in the blood. This can help you walk more. It can also reduce the risk of complications such as pulmonary hypertension, which is high blood pressure in the lungs.

Obstructive and restrictive lung conditions:

Obstructive and restrictive lung diseases are terms used to describe lung conditions. Both can cause low oxygen levels in the blood and can be treated with oxygen therapy adapted to your needs.

Obstruction refers to how quickly you can move the air in and out. The restriction refers to the total amount of air entering your lungs.

If a healthy person inhales deeply and then exhales as hard as he can, he should be able to remove at least 70% of the air from his lungs in a second.

In obstructive pulmonary disease, the airflow slows down, so the lungs take longer to empty.

This can occur due to damage to the airways that make them narrow or damage to the lung tissue, making the lungs less elastic.

Common obstructive pulmonary diseases are:

  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
  • Asthma.
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Cystic fibrosis.

In restrictive lung disease, you can not fill your lungs with air because your lungs are restricted from fully expanding. This can happen because the lungs themselves are stiff or scarred, or a problem with the chest wall or breathing muscles.

Restrictive lung conditions include:

  • Interstitial lung disease, such as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
  • Sarcoidosis.

And the lungs may also be restricted due to:

  • Obesity.
  • Scoliosis (or curved spine).
  • Neuromuscular disease, such as muscular dystrophy or motor neuron disease
  • Paralysis of the diaphragm.


Many people believe that shortness of breath is the rating factor that causes them to need supplemental oxygen. This is not necessarily true. Although many people with shortness of breath require therapy, additional criteria must be met before a doctor can justify writing a prescription.

Before being selected for treatment, your doctor will order an arterial blood gas study or perform a pulse oximetry test to measure the amount of oxygen in your blood.

Generally speaking, medical oxygen is required if your blood oxygen level is less than or equal to 55 mg Hg or your oxygen saturation level is 88% or lower. Once your doctor determines that your blood oxygen levels are low, you may be advised to start therapy.

How many hours a day should you use oxygen therapy?

The amount of time you use the therapy will be based on your individual needs and determined by your doctor. The good news is that its use for more than 15 hours a day increases survival in some patients.

Oxygen has much more short and long-term benefits and increases life expectancy.

Is there a side effect associated with supplemental oxygen?

When used correctly, it is safe and effective. However, like any prescription medication, side effects may occur.

The following includes the most commonly reported side effects associated with oxygen therapy equipment and supplemental oxygen:

Nasal dryness:

Supplemental oxygen can have a drying effect on the entire respiratory tract from the nose and nasal passages. The use of a moisturizing product such as AYR Saline Nasal Mist can help to lubricate the nasal passages making the therapy more comfortable.

Skin irritation:

Since the tips of the nasal cannula lie just inside the nostrils, it is not uncommon for the skin in that area to become red and irritated. Applying AYR Nasal Gel in and around the nasal openings can help soothe this susceptible area, protecting against skin breakage.

Risk of fire:

Although oxygen is not flammable in itself, it is compatible with combustion, which means that things burn more efficiently in their presence.

Never smoke or allow anyone to smoke while using supplemental oxygen. Avoid using your oxygen near an open flame or other heat sources such as an electric stove. Stay away from personal care products that contain oil.

Removal of the unit to breathe:

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute reports that this type of therapy can suppress the urge to breathe in a select group of patients.

In general, this can be controlled by adjusting the oxygen flow rate. You must always follow your doctor’s instructions regarding your oxygen prescription. Never increase your oxygen dose without first checking with your health care provider.

When used as prescribed, Oxygen therapy can give you the energy you need to function better and be more physically active.

Plus, a portable oxygen concentrator like the Inogen One makes it easy for you to maintain your independence to keep up with your daily routine at home or travel the city as you see fit.


Use oxygen safely:

Use your oxygen equipment by the manufacturer’s safety instructions to avoid fire hazards. For example, you should not use oxygen while cooking with gas. Some hand creams and alcohol gels are not suitable for use along with oxygen, as they may be flammable.

No one should smoke near oxygen or use oxygen near a naked flame. Electronic cigarettes can also be a fire hazard.

The local fire service can offer specific advice about your home. Most oxygen tubes have a firewall near your face at the end of the line that will stop oxygen in case of fire.

If you have difficulty with mobility or reduced vision, be careful with the oxygen tubes. If you are concerned about trips and falls, the occupational therapist in the community can evaluate your home and offer ways to help. Your family doctor or local health care team can arrange this evaluation.

Remember that oxygen is medicine, too much oxygen can be dangerous. It is difficult for you to alter the oxygen flow rate your equipment provides or change the type of mask you wear unless directed by your healthcare professional. It has been prescribed after a cautious evaluation.

Smoking and oxygen:

It would help if you never smoked, including electronic cigarettes, when you use oxygen. The carbon monoxide in the smoke reduces the oxygen your blood can carry around your body. This makes oxygen therapy ineffective.

Oxygen also helps combustion, so there must be no smoke around the oxygen. There is a risk of facial burns and fire at home if you or someone else smokes in your home when the oxygen supply is turned on.

If you continue to smoke while using oxygen, a risk assessment and medical review will be conducted. It may be appropriate to suspend or withdraw oxygen therapy due to public safety or risk to others. Ask your respiratory team for advice on stopping smoking or read our tips for help.

You will not get any long-term benefit from oxygen if you continue to smoke or do not use oxygen as prescribed.

Contact insurers:

If you use oxygen, you must inform your insurers. This should not affect insurance fees, but it will ensure that it is fully covered in the event of a claim. It is good to inform insurance providers of both buildings and content.

It would help if you also informed your car insurance provider. But there is no need to notify the DVLA unless you experience vertigo, fainting, or loss of consciousness.