Frequently Asked Questions About Oxygen Concentrators

Man with Oxygen Concentrator Playing with his Son — Apple Valley, MN — Corner Home Medical

Human beings require a certain amount of oxygen to survive, a fact that can create complications for individuals who have trouble getting enough of this element from ordinary air. If your doctor finds that you have trouble keeping your blood oxygen levels at (or over) 88 percent, you may benefit from supplemental oxygen.

Oxygen concentrators can provide 90–95% pure oxygen in a relatively compact form, making them equally useful at home or on the road. However, you’ll want to understand some basic concepts about these machines before getting one. Check out the answers to these frequently asked oxygen concentrator questions.

What Does an Oxygen Concentrator Do?

An oxygen concentrator is a medical device prescribed by doctors for patients who suffer from respiratory ailments or limitations. Unlike an enclosed oxygen tank, an oxygen concentrator gets its oxygen from the air around it. As the oxygen concentrator takes in room air, it removes nitrogen from that air and leaves an oxygen-enriched gas for use by people requiring medical oxygen due to low oxygen levels in their blood.

A typical oxygen concentrator runs on electric power and delivers its filtered oxygen through a face mask or a nose piece called a nasal cannula.

Who Can Benefit From an Oxygen Concentrator?

Doctors prescribe oxygen concentrators for both short-term and long-term needs. For instance, if you recently underwent a surgical procedure, struggle with periodic asthma, or need help breathing during recovery from pneumonia, you might need to use an oxygen concentrator until your condition improves.

People who suffer from chronic respiratory problems may need to use oxygen concentrators on a daily or continuous basis. Examples of conditions that might require this approach include chronic pulmonary obstructive disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, and pulmonary fibrosis.

Some pediatric conditions may require children to use supplemental oxygen. Newborns, in particular, may need oxygen temporarily if they have lung conditions such as respiratory distress syndrome (RDS). If this condition progresses into an ailment called bronchopulmonary dysplasia, they may need long-term oxygen support.

How Do Portable and Stationary Oxygen Concentrators Differ?

Both portable and stationary oxygen concentrators perform the same basic processes in the same general manner. However, a stationary oxygen concentrator can prove too heavy and bulky to carry and use easily while traveling. Portable oxygen concentrators weigh just a few pounds up to 18 lbs and include batteries that provide power on the go.

Portable and stationary oxygen concentrators can also differ in the way they deliver oxygen to the user. Due to its limited capacity and power, a larger portable oxygen concentrator delivers continuous oxygen up to 3 LPM and up to 6–9 pulse rate. Smaller portable oxygen concentrators that you can carry only deliver oxygen by pulse up to 6. A full-sized stationary oxygen concentrator delivers oxygen continuously from 5–10 LPM until you switch it off.

How Do You Handle and Use an Oxygen Concentrator Safely?

Thankfully, the oxygen in an oxygen concentrator doesn’t pose the same risk of explosion as a pressurized oxygen tank. Even so, the oxygen released by an oxygen concentrator can turn a spark into a flame or turn a small flame into an outright fire if you don’t follow some common-sense safety measures.

Always keep your oxygen concentrator at least six feet away from any sources of heat or fire, even tiny ones such as lit candles. Don’t smoke (or allow others to smoke) in the same room as your oxygen concentrator. Keep the device away from aerosols, which can combust easily.

Since your oxygen concentrator uses electricity to operate, you must take precautions to keep it from getting wet. If you have to shower while using supplemental oxygen, consider attaching an extra-long oxygen delivery tube so you can keep the main body of the device away from the water.

Remember that your oxygen concentrator makes its oxygen from ambient air. Don’t carry or store the device in a manner that blocks the air vents, or you won’t get the oxygen you need from it.

If you need a stationary or portable oxygen equipment setup, Corner Home Medical can provide you with oxygen equipment products. Contact us if you have any additional questions.