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FAQs for Oxygen Users

RANA understands that offering education about home oxygen and providing answers to common questions helps our patients feel comfortable with their oxygen therapy.

FAQs for Oxygen Users

  • Using Oxygen - General Information

    What is oxygen?

    Oxygen is a natural part of the air we breathe, but it makes up less than a ¼ of the gases we call air. Our bloodstream collects oxygen from our lungs and transports it to the tissues of our body.The cells within these tissues use both oxygen and the food we eat to create energy.

    Why do I need oxygen?

    If you have chronic lung disease, some areas in your lungs are damaged. These damaged areas act as blockages, preventing oxygen from moving into your bloodstream. You are unable to capture enough oxygen during a breath for your body to thrive. You likely experience difficulties breathing, sleeping and performing daily activities.

    Oxygen therapy increases the amount of oxygen available to your bloodstream in each breath. The increased oxygen concentration eases the capture of enough oxygen by your bloodstream to supply your body. This therapy helps you breathe more comfortably, so you can enjoy your daily activities.

    Will I become addicted to oxygen?

    Definitely not. Drug addictions create a biochemical change; oxygen does not cause a biochemical change, so it cannot be addictive. If you use home oxygen, you suffer from a physical barrier in your lungs. This barrier reduces the flow of oxygen gas from the lungs into your bloodstream. Home oxygen therapy simply increases the amount of oxygen in each breath compared to other gases. With more oxygen in your lungs, the blood has a better chance of pulling that oxygen out of your lungs.

    Oxygen therapy patients typically need increasing amounts of oxygen over time because their lung disease worsens. If you need additional oxygen, it is because of the progression of your condition, not because you are addicted to oxygen.

    Can I ever stop using oxygen?

    Unfortunately, if your lung disease has caused enough lung damage to force the need for oxygen, you will likely need it for the rest of your life. However, some lung conditions are treatable with the use of medications or by curing an infection; in those cases, patients may overcome the need for oxygen.

    Do I have to use oxygen all the time?

    Your oxygen prescription tells you when to use your oxygen. Some patients must use oxygen all the time, while other patients do not.

    What happens if I don’t use my oxygen?

    Always consult your physician before making any changes to your oxygen therapy. Suddenly stopping oxygen therapy may cause complications to your condition. Without enough oxygen, your symptoms may worsen and you may find it impossible to do even simple tasks.

  • Oxygen Safety

    What happens if I continue to smoke?

    Don’t smoke and don’t let others smoke in your home. Oxygen rapidly accelerates a fire, so smoking near your equipment or while using your oxygen greatly increases your risks of serious injury.

    Smoking is also a fire hazard. If a fire starts in your home from careless smoking, oxygen will allow the fire to spread more quickly and it will be more difficult to extinguish.

    Who should know I have oxygen in my home?

    Your Electric Company: During a power outage, your oxygen concentrator will not work, so you will need a back-up or portable oxygen supply. If the electric company knows there is an oxygen user in your home, they may prioritize the re-establishment of your power.

    Your Local Fire Department: Oxygen rapidly accelerates a fire and flammables will burn more easily and more violently in the presence of oxygen. The fire department must be made aware that you use oxygen in your home, so they are prepared to respond appropriately to a fire emergency.

    Your Building Manager: If your home has a building manager (e.g. apartment, townhouse, condominium), you should let them know about your oxygen use. This helps them follow the correct emergency procedures in case of a fire drill or during communications with the electric company or fire department.

  • Costs of Oxygen

    Do I have to pay for oxygen?

    Home Oxygen Costs

    Oxygen is considered a medication, so many provincial programs and private health insurance companies may cover the cost of oxygen for home use. RANA can help determine your eligibility for these, or other, programs.

    Portable Oxygen Costs

    Alberta Aids to Daily Living (AADL) provides funding for Alberta residents requiring portable oxygen.

    In Manitoba, the costs of portable oxygen are not covered under the Provincial Oxygen Program. However, the Pharmacare Program, private health insurance companies (e.g. Blue Cross) or other programs (e.g. DVA, WCB) may cover portable oxygen costs. Talk to your private health insurance provider or contanct RANA at 1.888.297.7889 to ask about your eligility for portable oxygen coverage.

  • Starting Home Oxygen Therapy

    How do I get home oxygen?

    After RANA receives your oxygen prescription from your physician, our office will contact you to set-up a convenient time for our first home visit.

    During this visit, RANA will:

    • Deliver and set-up your oxygen equipment
    • Ensure your equipment is providing the correct amount of oxygen (as prescribed by your physician)
    • Show you how to care for your equipment
    • Teach you how to set your own flowrate
    • Make sure you are comfortable using your equipment 

    How much oxygen will I need?

    Oxygen is a medication and must be prescribed by your physician. Physicians use several tests to determine if you need home oxygen and if so, how much.

    • Chest X-Rays determine the condition of your lungs and if you have lung disease
    • Blood Tests determine how well your lungs are working and they confirm how much oxygen your blood transports to your body
    • Exercise Tests gauge how well your body uses the oxygen it receives

    Based on these tests, your physician will write a prescription for home oxygen therapy stating two things: a specific flowrate of oxygen (usually measured in liters per minute) and how many hours per day you must use it. Oxygen requirements often depend upon activity level, so your physician may also order a higher oxygen flowrate to use when you are active.

  • Portable Oxygen Equipment

    What are portable oxygen cylinders?

    Portable oxygen cylinders are small tanks of compressed oxygen that vary in height and weight.

    • Larger cylinders contain more oxygen and last for longer periods of time
    • Smaller cylinders must be changed more frequently, but are easier to carry

    Since all portable oxygen cylinders require frequent changes, you must plan ahead when traveling to make sure you bring sufficient replacement cylinders for your trip.

    Can I use portable oxygen cylinders?

    You can use portable oxygen cylinders if you have a prescription for oxygen from your physician. RANA can help you choose a suitable cylinder size.

    How do I replace my empty portable oxygen cylinders?

    Manitoba Clients Only

    RANA provides oxygen services throughout Manitoba. We offer two ways to replace your portable oxygen cylinders:

    • Call RANA to arrange a date and time for home delivery 1-888-297-7889
    • Visit A RANA Home Oxygen Depot

    RANA has several oxygen depots throughout the province of Manitoba. Call our office at 1-888-297-7889 to direct you to our depot locations and to request a “Client Depot Card.”

    What is an oxygen conserving device (OCD)?

    An oxygen conserving device (OCD) attaches to all portable oxygen cylinders, delivering oxygen only when you breathe in, therefore conserving the amount of oxygen you use. With an OCD you can travel longer and use either smaller or fewer portable cylinders.

    What is a portable oxygen concentrator (POC)?

    A portable oxygen concentrator (POC) works like your home oxygen concentrator by extracting oxygen from room air, but it fits in a space about the size of a small suitcase. POCs make long-term travel easy and conveneint and are approved for use onboard many commercial aircraft. POCs come with rechargeable batteries and two different power cords, so they can be plugged into a regular electrical outlet or a car's auxilliary outlet.

    Can I use an OCD or a POC?

    An in-home respiratory assessment, performed by a RANA Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) or Registered Nurse (RN), helps us determine if you can use an OCD or POC. If your assessment shows you can successfully use the portable oxygen system, the RRT or RN will contact your physician for a prescription.

    In Manitoba, there is a fee for an in-home respiratory assessment. Contact RANA for more information.

  • Using Portable Oxygen

    What is portable oxygen?

    Portable oxygen systems provide oxygen users the opportunity to leave home for a few hours, days,or weeks. Portable oxygen systems are made up of smaller oxygen cylinders or compact, battery-operated oxygen concentrators.

    Will I be able to travel?

    Traveling with oxygen is very common. Portable oxygen devices can be used when driving in a car or traveling in an airplane.

    First, you must contact your physician to ask if you are well enough to travel. If you can travel, RANA can help you with the oxygen equipment and information needed for your trip.

    How do I choose a portable system?

    A portable oxygen system provides you with independence. How often you leave your home, the length of your trip and how you travel (e.g. car, airplane) will determine which portable oxygen system you need. RANA can help you choose the best system for your lifestyle.

    Can I still drive with oxygen?

    Yes, you may drive as long as your physician approves it. Make sure your oxygen unit is secured inside your vehicle to prevent it from moving in the event of a collision or accident.

  • Travel Tips for Oxygen Users

    Can I travel across the border?

    Yes, but with increased border security, make sure you have the following documentation:

    • A current oxygen prescription from your doctor
    • Proof of “point of origin” for your oxygen equipment (e.g. letter from you Home Oxygen Provider, rental or sales invoice)

    What should I take with me when traveling?

    • Your Home Oxygen Provider’s phone number
    • Your Personal Health Identification Number (PHIN)
    • Your doctor’s name and office phone number
    • An emergency contact’s name and phone number (e.g. family, friend)
    • A letter from your physician to any health care professional (e.g. physician, nurse, etc.) you may need to see while traveling
    • A list of your allergies, vaccinations and current medications
    • A copy of your treatment plan in case of flare-ups
    • A prescription for antibiotics and/or prednisone, if prescribed by your physician
    • The name of a physician at your destination; make sure this physician receives current medical information from your Canadian physician before you travel
    • A copy of your Health Directive (Ensure your family is also aware of your wishes)
    • Extra medication, in case you are delayed returning home
    • If traveling by plane with a portable oxygen concentrator (POC), bring the Physician's Statement for Airline Travel with a POC, completed by your physician. This will authorize your POC use during the flight.

    What do I need to know when I travel?

    • The phone number and address of businesses abroad that can supply you with more oxygen, additional supplies, prescription refills, wheelchairs, walkers, etc., if necessary
    • What triggers aggravate your symptoms (e.g. air conditioning)
    • Ask your doctor about temporary changes to your inhaled medications to guard against known triggers
    • Consider your strengths and how you can use them to stay healthy during your trip

    How can I make traveling easier?

    • Make all travel plans in advance
    • Prepare for typical problems
    • Plan rest stops, snack breaks, stretches and short walks
    • Plan to travel at cooler times of the day or year, so less air conditioning is needed
    • Follow your home routine as much as possible (e.g. nap-times)
    • When making travel reservations (e.g. bus, airline, tours), be sure to notify the staff of your oxygen use, so they can accommodate your needs
  • Common Problems for Oxygen Users

    What is the best treatment for a dry mouth and nose?

    Use a water-based nasal cream or gel (e.g. Secaris) to lubricate your lips and nose. A room humidifier will help by increasing the humidity level in your home. You can also attach a humidity bottle to your oxygen concentrator. RANA can show you how to do this.

    How do I treat sore ears because of the cannula?

    Using cotton wrap or gauze pads between the tubing and your skin reduces irritation. RANA can supply you with a commercial product that works well. There may be a charge for this item, depending on the provincial funding available.

    How do I treat a blocked or bleeding nose?

    Use a saline nasal spray to clear your nasal passages. Also, try using a water-based nasal cream or gel (e.g. Secaris) to lubricate your nose, increasing the humidity in the house with a room humidifier, or attaching a humidity bottle to your concentrator.

    My nose hurts; can I attach a mask to my concentrator?

    Using an oxygen mask is only recommended at certain oxygen flowrates. Contact RANA to determine if you are a candidate for a mask. If you cannot use a nasal cannula or a mask, other oxygen delivery devices are available. RANA will recommend the best device for you.

    Can I increase my oxygen flowrate if I am still short of breath?

    Never change your oxygen flowrate unless prescribed by your physician. Your symptoms may worsen if you use either too much or too little oxygen.

    Shortness of breath is not always because of too little oxygen. Such symptoms may be due to a flare-up in your lung condition caused by a cold or chest infection.

    If You Are Experiencing Shortness Of Breath:

    • Sit in a comfortable position, stay calm and try to control your breathing. Purse-lip breathing and diaphragmatic breathing will both help. These breathing exercises reduce the trapped air in your lungs, which allows you to breathe in more fresh air.
    • Make an appointment with your physician.
    • The faster you receive treatment after you notice the warning signs of a flare-up, the better your chances of recovering quickly and avoiding a hospital stay.  
  • Home Oxygen Concentrators

    What is a home oxygen concentrator?

    Home oxygen concentrators create usable oxygen for you from the air in your home. They are the most common source of oxygen used for home oxygen therapy.

    Can I take my oxygen concentrator from my home?

    Home oxygen concentrators are not portable; they need a power supply to operate. However, a variety of portable oxygen systems will allow you to leave your home and still use oxygen.

    Portable oxygen systems are made up of smaller oxygen cylinders or compact, battery-operated, oxygen concentrators. These portable oxygen devices can be used when driving a car or traveling in an airplane.

    How long will my oxygen concentrator last?

    Oxygen concentrators, our most commonly used source of home oxygen, are electrically-powered and use room air to provide you with concentrated oxygen. These machines will last for many years, but over time they will need routine maintenance and repair. RANA regularly checks our patients’ machines, services them and replaces parts when needed.


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