Some people with COPD will need to use Oxygen because they have low levels of oxygen in the blood. Tests for low blood oxygen levels include a fingertip probe, known as pulse oximetry, or a blood test taken from the artery in your wrist, called an ABG. If you have continually low levels of oxygen in your blood this can cause damage to organs such as the lungs and heart. To prevent this you may be prescribed home oxygen by your doctor.
There are different types of home Oxygen equipment and your healthcare professional will help you decide which type will be best for you. If you are prescribed Oxygen
for use at home, it is called long term oxygen therapy or LTOT for short. When it is prescribed you will be told how long you are to use the oxygen for every day.
The equipment is designed to allow you to move freely around your home. Oxygen can also be prescribed to assist you when you are out and about. This is called ambulatory oxygen therapy or AOT and should be used as advised by your healthcare professional.
Oxygen may be prescribed when you are discharged from hospital and then discontinued once you have recovered from your current flare up. It is important to have a follow up appointment with your doctor, specialist physiotherapist or specialist nurse to check.
Home oxygen is a drug so it is important to use it as prescribed. Not using your oxygen can make you more unwell but so can using it incorrectly. It is especially important NOT to increase the oxygen dials on the equipment as this can cause serious side effects and will not help your COPD.
If you are prescribed home oxygen by your doctor it is important to remember the following safety tips:
- Look after your equipment and follow the instructions provided by your oxygen supplier.
- Do not expose your oxygen to naked flames or other heat sources.
- Do not smoke near oxygen equipment.
- Store oxygen equipment safely, your oxygen supplier will provide advice.
- If you are not using your oxygen, turn it off. Be especially careful not to leave oxygen tubing, with oxygen flowing through it, on beds, soft furnishings or even your lap.
- Ensure you have working smoke alarms and a fire extinguisher in your home.
Travelling with Oxygen
You can still enjoy a full and active life with COPD including holidays and travelling abroad. However, being organised for travel is important if you have any illness not just COPD. Travel is a break in the daily pattern of life and if you suffer from COPD it can affect your breathing pattern and oxygen transfer as it requires a bit more exertion than you may normally use.
Here are a few pointers to help you get on your way:
- Pack well in advance
- Ensure you have a full supply of medications and probably a rescue prescription in case you need antibiotics or steroids when away from home
- If not taking your own transport, ensure you bring your nebuliser machine and 2 – 3 days supply of medications with you as hand luggage, in case your main luggage gets mislaid
- If travelling by plane please be aware that some airlines may require a letter to allow you carry medications and equipment on the aircraft, so it is important for you to state this at the time of making a booking and consult your G.P. or respiratory physician prior to travelling
- To minimise the effects of air pollution on your breathing try to travel before rush hours or after sunset when the air is cooler and pollution will less
- Avoid heavily travelled roads if possible
- Pace your journey, take plenty of rest breaks and get out and stretch your legs if possible