Home Oxygen Concentrator Info & Tips:
Specialty Medical Supply is one of the largest providers of home oxygen supplies to the hospital, nursing home, and home care market in the United States. Specialty Medical takes pride in its extensive knowledge of home oxygen concentrators and its ability to provide answers to our customers questions concerning which suction machine is right for their current situation or application. [ see current models and prices ]
Specialty Medical also feels it carries the top oxygen concentrator equipment in the healthcare industry from the top manufacturers. Specialty Medical is able to provide substantial cost savings compared to other companies based on the fact that we sell hundreds of home oxygen concentrators to hospitals, nursing homes, schools, EMT's and several other healthcare establishments in such large volumes. Specialty Medical has put together an informative page to better answer some of your questions regarding oxygen concentrators.
What is an Oxygen Concentrator and when is it used?
An Oxygen Concentrator is most often used as a treatment for COPD – Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. With COPD, the airways and alveoli lose their shape and become floppy. When the airways and alveoli lose their elasticity, the airways collapse, like a floppy hose, and the alveoli tend to stay inflated. The floppy airways obstruct the airflow out of the lungs, leading to an abnormal increase in the lungs' size. In addition, the airways may become inflamed and thickened, and mucus-producing cells produce more mucus, further contributing to the difficulty of getting air out of the lungs. Less air gets in and less air goes out because:
- The airways and alveoli lose their elasticity.
- The walls between many of the alveoli are destroyed.
- The walls of the airways become thick and inflamed.
- Cells in the airways make more mucus (sputum) than usual, which tends to clog the airways.
COPD develops slowly, and it may be many years before symptoms such as a feeling of shortness of breath are noticed. Most of the time, COPD is diagnosed in middle-aged or older people.
If COPD is severe and oxygen levels in the blood are low, a patient is not getting enough oxygen on their own. The doctor may recommend oxygen therapy (with an home oxygen concentrator) to help with shortness of breath. Extra oxygen may be needed all the time or just some of the time. For some people with severe COPD, using a home oxygen oxygen concentrator for more than 15 hours a day can help with the following:
- Performing activities with less shortness of breath
- Protecting the heart and other organs from damage
- Sleeping more during the night and improve alertness during the day
- Extending the length of life
If a person smokes, the most important thing they can do to stop more damage to the lungs is to quit smoking. The Web site of the U.S. Office of the Surgeon General has information on how to quit smoking. Many hospitals have smoking cessation programs or can make a referral to one.
It is also important to keep home oxygen concentrators away from people who are smoking and places where smokers are known to be. Staying away from other lung irritants such as pollution, dust, and certain cooking or heating fumes is also important. For example, it is important to stay in the house when the outside air quality is poor.
Where should the home oxygen concentrator machine be used?
Keep the oxygen concentrator at least 12-18 inches away from items that would block inlet ports. Keep the concentrator at least 12-18 inches away from drapes, bedspreads, walls or any other item that might clock the inlet areas. If the oxygen concentrator is too noisy, place it in an adjacent room.
Care for your oxygen concentrator.
Oxygen systems require very little cleaning. The only item that requires cleaning on the concentrator is the external filter. The unit itself can be washed with a damp cloth. All cleaning must be done in an already clean environment. Avoid cleaning your equipment after vacuuming, under an open window, or in dusty, dirty, or smokey areas.
- Step 1: Remove the filter
- Step 2: Wash in warm water and a non-lotion detergent (such as Joy).
- Step 3: Rinse the filter thoroughly with warm water.
- Step 4: Gently squeeze water from the filter and set on the counter to dry.
- Step 5: Reattach the filter. Do not replace the filter until it is fully dry. This could cause damage to the concentrator. The only other item that would require cleaning would be a humidifier bottle if one is being used. (View Oxygen Concentrators)
- Unit not operating – a) Plug not firmly in wall b) Concentrator circuit breaker has been set off c) No power at wall outlet or 4) Electrical Power outage
- Unable to dial prescribed flow rate – a) Obstruction in tubing b) Obstruction in cannula or c) Obstructed humidifier bottle
Top 10 frequently asked questions about Oxygen Concentrators
- Q: My concentrator seems to be making a thumping noise, is it working correctly?
- The concentrator has an alternating switch that extracts the pure oxygen from the room air, it cycles every 8 seconds. The sound you are hearing is the switch.
- The noise you need to be concerned with is the alarm; the alarm is there to notify the patient that the machine is defective. It is loud and should
- Q: When I put the regulator on a new tank I hear a “hissing” sound, what is it?
- Regulators have a rubber gasket inside them that seals the regulator or conserver to the cylinder head.
- If the gasket is missing that can definitely be a cause of the sound but most of the time it is the result of over tightening.
- Over turning the handle to tighten down the regulator can split the gasket resulting in small tears in the rubber that can cause leakage; remember to turn the knob until it becomes tight, then another quarter turn.
- This should ensure a good seal and avoid over tightening and damaging the gasket.
- Q: The humidity bottle on my oxygen concentrator has what looks like calcium around the tip where the air comes out, what is wrong?
- In order for a humidity bottle to work correctly you have to use distilled water in the cup.
- Water departments have a sanitizing process that eliminates bacteria but does not remove sediment and is still considered safe for drinking.
- City or well water in a humidity bottle is not unsafe but the sediment in the water will build up on the aerated tip and cause it to obstruct the flow of oxygen.
- Q: If I get short of breath can I turn up the dial on my oxygen machine?
- Turning up your oxygen concentrator without your doctors consent is dangerous.
- Struggling to catch your breath is dangerous too but when you increase your liter flow and it exceeds your recommended dosage nitrogen can build up in your blood stream which can DESTROY YOUR WILL TO BREATHE.
- Pure oxygen and the script you have been given was order with a specific intention and should not be added to without the consent of a healthcare professional.
- Q: Can I plug the machine into my cigarette lighter in the car?
- A home oxygen concentrator is not designed to operate on 12V.
- Even if you were to purchase an inverter with a 120V plug, the compressor in the concentrator can produce up to 400W.
- Unless your vehicle is equipped with an alternator powerful enough to run a full size refrigerator, I would advise against it.
- Q: Can I purchase an oxygen concentrator even if I don’t have a prescription?
- Pure oxygen is considered a drug and an oxygen concentrator is a metered dose device.
- It is illegal to purchase an oxygen concentrator without a doctor’s order or prescription.
- Q: Can I put my oxygen concentrator in a closet?
- Oxygen concentrators need room air in order to make pure oxygen, a closed environment will not allow more room air to flow through the machine, eventually the machine will ‘choke’ and an alarm will sound. I would advise against it.
- All concentrators no matter what brand all have an air compressor that does get warm, a closet would never allow the heat to dissipate and would cause the concentrator to alarm.
- Q: The machine is alarming and the yellow light is on?
- The sponge filter is dirty: If the sponge filter needs to be cleaned it will build up dust just like a dryer lint filter, if it is too dirty air cannot flow through the machine and it will alarm. Clean the filter by running it under a faucet with dishwashing soap squeeze it in a paper towel and let it dry for at least four hours.
- The house is kinked or the flow is blocked: The oxygen tubing allows oxygen to flow to the patient and out through a nasal cannula, if it is choked by a chair leg, wheelchair wheel or any kind of obstruction preventing the flow of air out of the machine the pressure will build up in the line and set off the alarm.
- The humidity bottle: It is imperative for the safe operation of the oxygen concentrator that when using a humidity bottle distilled water is the cup. Tap water will eventually block the flow of the outlet and back up the compressor of the concentrator.
- Q: There is a pilot light in my furnace or gas stove, is that a fire hazard?
- A pilot light is fire and could be a flashpoint or a fire hazard, but only if the oxygen is within a few feet of the oxygen.
- A good rule of thumb is to keep the oxygen at least ten feet away from any open flames.
- Q: My nose is dry from using oxygen; can I use petroleum jelly in or on the affected area?
- Vaseline and Neosporin are petroleum based products, although these products might seem like they would pose a fire risk the issue is that pure oxygen molecules will adhere and build up on a patient’s skin where this kind of lubricant is applied. It will not burn but it will create a burning sensation.
- The best type of topical for this type of issue is a water based gel with Aloe Vera in it, it can be purchased at any drug store and is very effective in treating this kind of irritation and safe too.