Using Oxygen at Home

Parts of an oxygen tank.

Your healthcare provider has prescribed oxygen to help make it easier to breathe. You were shown in the hospital how to use your oxygen unit. Here are some guidelines on safely using oxygen at home. Do all steps each time you use your oxygen unit.

Note: The steps will vary depending on the type of oxygen unit you use.

General tips

  • Wash your hands before and after using your oxygen.

  • Work with your healthcare provider and medical supply company to get answers to any questions you have. They can help you find out what is best for you.

  • Keep the unit and tubing clean to help prevent breathing in germs. The medical supply company can help if you need information about cleaning or maintaining your oxygen unit.

Step 1. Check your supply

  • Pressurize your oxygen tank. This is for compressed tanks only. Other devices can simply be switched on. Follow the instructions from your healthcare provider or medical supply company.

  • Check the oxygen gauge on the tank to be sure you have enough. Your medical supply company will tell you when to call for more oxygen. Or the company will deliver your oxygen on a regular schedule.

  • Check the water level if you have a humidifier bottle. When the level is at or below half full, refill it with sterile or distilled water. Ask your medical supply company how often you should change your humidifier bottle. This is important to prevent germs.

Step 2. Attach the tubing

  • Attach the cannula tubing to your oxygen unit as you have been shown.

  • Be sure the tubing is not bent or blocked.

Step 3. Set your flow rate

  • Set the oxygen to flow at the rate your healthcare provider gave you. This is _________________.

  • Never change this rate unless your provider tells you to.

Step 4. Put the cannula in your nose

  • Put the nose tube (cannula) in your nose. Breathe through your nose normally.

  • Put the cannula in a glass of water if you are not sure if the oxygen is flowing. Oxygen is flowing if the water bubbles.

Use oxygen safely

Follow all safety guidelines when using oxygen at home. Tips for safe oxygen use include:

  • Stay away from open flames. These include cigarettes, matches, candles, fireplaces, gas burners, pipes, and anything else that could start a fire.

  • Don't smoke. Don’t be around others who are smoking.

  • Keep oxygen tanks at least 5 feet from any heat source. This includes gas stoves, space heaters, and electric and gas heaters.

  • Keep the door to the room open so that air circulates, and it is not stuffy.

  • Protect your oxygen tank from being knocked over.

  • Store the oxygen tank upright in a secure, approved storage device.

  • Turn the tank off right away if it is knocked over and makes a hissing noise. If the regulator breaks or you cannot safely turn the tank off, remove the tubing and leave the room. Then call the supply company or the fire department for help right away.

  • Be careful not to trip over the tubing of your oxygen tank.

  • Don't use lotions or creams that have petroleum jelly. Petroleum jelly can start a fire when mixed with oxygen.

  • Turn oxygen off when you are not using it.

  • Always follow the instructions for safe use as recommended by your medical supply company. Not using oxygen safely at home can put you and your neighbors at higher risk for fires and burns.

  • Make sure you know what to do in an emergency. Your emergency numbers should include 911, your healthcare provider, and your medical supply company.

 Maintain your unit

Ask your medical supply company how often to change your cannula tubing, cannula, and humidifier bottle, if you have one.


When to call the healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • Pale skin or a blue tint to your lips or fingernails

  • Increased shortness of breath, wheezing, or other changes from your usual breathing, even with oxygen in place

  • Confusion, restlessness, or more anxiety than usual

  • Chest pain