Why do I need oxygen at home?
Oxygen helps you breathe and is important if you have a lung condition or have been very ill with a chest infection or virus such as COVID.
If you needed oxygen from a machine in hospital, or you were referred by your GP for an oxygen assessment, you might need oxygen equipment to help you breathe when you are at home.
The oxygen equipment will give you the right amount of oxygen to help you breathe.
It is important that:
- You do not change the settings on your oxygen equipment
- Use the equipment daily as advised
You might need oxygen all the time or for other activities such as:
- Getting ready
- Washing up
- Moving around at home
How do I use oxygen?
When the NHS delivers your oxygen equipment, they will show you how to use it. Sometimes this is done by an NHS worker from the home oxygen team or the oxygen provider who both help you to manage your oxygen.
If you need oxygen daily, you might have a machine that plugs in and filters oxygen already in the air for you to breathe.
You will get information about switching the machine on and off and how to look after it, such as keeping it clean.
If you get oxygen equipment, you will also get an oxygen cylinder, which holds oxygen in a tank. Someone will show you how to use the oxygen cylinder if your equipment stops working.
If you do not need oxygen all the time, you may get a small machine or cylinder that allows you to move around.
How will the oxygen affect my life?
Having oxygen at home should not affect your daily life. If you have any worries or problems, you could speak to your:
- Oxygen team
Oxygen is important to help you breathe, but you must follow safety rules when you have oxygen equipment in your house because it can spread fire. Carefully read the information the oxygen team gives you.
The local fire service can help you to store oxygen safely:
- No one should smoke cigarettes, e-cigarettes or vapes near oxygen equipment
- There should not be any flames such as a gas cooker or matches near oxygen equipment
- Be careful not to trip over the oxygen tubes as oxygen could leak out, and you could fall and hurt yourself
You must also tell your car insurance and household insurance company. Having oxygen at home should not affect the cost of your insurance, but it could be important if you need to make a claim.
Sometimes using oxygen can make your nose or lips dry or sore. If you need help with this, ask your doctor, nurse, oxygen team or your local chemist for a water-based moisturiser.
Do not use oil-based creams like petroleum jelly, which is called Vaseline.
Travelling with Oxygen
If you are travelling by car, make sure you move your portable oxygen equipment safely and securely:
- In the car boot
- Behind the front seats
- Strapped into the back seat using the seatbelt
The government has a guide about travelling with oxygen, and you should check the rules before travelling in the UK or abroad.
You can also get advice from your oxygen team.
Will the oxygen make me feel less breathless?
Oxygen is not a treatment to help you when you are feeling breathless (Find out more about breathlessness).
Getting out of breath doesn’t always mean you need oxygen. Some people with heart and lung problems may need some support. If you have oxygen at home, it might help you:
- To do more activities before you get out of breath
- To do activities for longer before you get out of breath
- To get your breath back quicker when you get out of breath
What if my oxygen levels change at home?
You will be advised about the amount of oxygen you need and what oxygen levels to look out for. You may have a small oxygen monitor or oximeter – a clip that goes on your finger to read the oxygen levels in your blood so you can check it yourself at home.
If your oxygen levels are too high or low, you must contact your:
- Oxygen team
You should also contact them if you:
- Feel more out of breath than normal
- You are breathing more quickly
- Have a headache, particularly in the morning
- Feel restless or like you cannot calm down
- Feel dizzy
- Feel confused and find it hard to focus
How will I know when I do not need to use the oxygen equipment anymore?
If you get oxygen at home, it can help you get better, just like other medication you need to take when you go home.
You should get a follow up appointment 6 to 12 weeks after you have been started on oxygen to check if you still need to use the oxygen equipment.
Some of the appointments with the oxygen team may go ahead as face-to-face, or they could be on the phone or by video call.
At a face-to-face visit, the oxygen team measures the oxygen levels in your blood using the oximeter, a finger clip monitor. The team might ask you to walk around to check your oxygen levels.
The oxygen team may also need to take a small blood sample from your wrist or ear lobe.
Then the team will decide if you still need oxygen or if your oxygen levels should change.