Coming home from the hospital can be a joyous but stressful time. You’re happy to be home, but you’re probably also nervous about the treatments you need to continue there, especially if they’re new. One new treatment that people sometimes receive after a hospital stay is oxygen therapy. There’s a lot of information on how to get started on oxygen when you get home, and we’ve compiled that information for you below.
Test Your Blood Oxygen Level
When the medical professionals at the hospital finished treating you and decided to send you home, they probably checked what treatments you would need to continue yourself. If they thought you might need oxygen therapy, then they should have tested your blood oxygen level. Typical blood oxygen is around 95 percent, but you’ll need oxygen therapy if you’re below 88 percent. What happens if you’re between 88 and 95 percent depends on your health and doctor.
However, even if the hospital medical professionals tested your blood oxygen level, you should do so again when you’re home. Blood oxygen levels can change, and you want to know what those levels are when you’re relaxed in your own space. Once you know that number, you can compare it to the level you had at the hospital. If it’s below 95 percent, especially if it’s below 88 percent, then you still need oxygen therapy and need to speak with your doctor.
Receive an Oxygen Therapy Prescription
Your doctor may have checked in with you during your hospital stay and determined that your blood oxygen level was low enough to require oxygen therapy. They should have written an oxygen therapy prescription so that you could pick up the prescription and start getting the necessary supplies when you came home.
However, some doctors may require you to visit them after your hospital stay to discuss an oxygen therapy prescription. If this is the case, then you should take all related paperwork, as well as any home blood oxygen tests. This information will help your doctor decide what prescription is best for you.
The prescription will come in the form of a flow rate, and there are some common oxygen flow rates that you could expect to receive. Make sure to ask if this prescription is constant, only for daytime use, only for nighttime use, or only for times of exertion. You should also ask if this is a temporary or permanent prescription.
Choose an Oxygen Machine
Whether your doctor gave it to you in the hospital or afterward, your flow rate prescription will determine what oxygen machine you need. There are home oxygen concentrators and portable oxygen concentrators, as well as continuous flow and pulse flow concentrators.
Home oxygen concentrators are often larger and can provide higher oxygen flow rates. Some provide both continuous and pulse flow oxygen, while others can only provide one. Portable oxygen concentrators can typically only provide up to 5 liters of oxygen per minute. Like home concentrators, some can provide both continuous and pulse flow, while others can only provide one.
Your choice between these two types of concentrators will depend on your prescription, as we mentioned above. However, your choice will also depend on your lifestyle. If you already have travel plans coming up or are very active, then you should consider a portable oxygen concentrator that can support your prescription. If you expect to continue recovering at home for some time, then you should consider the support that a home oxygen concentrator can provide. If your doctor expects you to need oxygen therapy for an extended period, you may want to invest in both a portable and home oxygen machine. This will enable you to breathe comfortably no matter where you are.
Familiarize Yourself With the Machine and Maintenance
Once you’ve chosen your machine based on your prescription and lifestyle, you need to familiarize yourself with it. Even if you don’t expect to permanently use the machine, you need to know how it works. After all, this machine is an integral part of your health at the moment.
If you’re using a portable oxygen machine, you should know how to troubleshoot any problems while you’re outside of your home. If you’re using a home oxygen machine, you should know how to resolve problems even when you’re asleep or the oxygen machine is in a different room.
Read through your oxygen machine manual to understand how it works. Familiarize yourself with the regular maintenance it will need, from weekly cleanings you can do yourself to who to call in the event of an emergency.
Learn Oxygen Risks
While oxygen therapy is great for your lungs and will improve your health throughout your homecoming, there are some risks. Oxygen is flammable, which makes it a danger in certain parts of your home, such as around heat sources and open flames. This means you can’t use oxygen around a gas-burning stove, an open fireplace, or a fire pit. You should add signage to your home so that first responders know oxygen is present and in use if they enter your home for an emergency.
Watch for Side Effects
Oxygen also has side effects that you may experience. The constant presence of a nasal cannula and pure oxygen flow can irritate the skin in and around your nostrils. Sometimes, these factors can even trigger nosebleeds. A humidifier bottle can help mitigate most of these side effects, but you can also use a hydrating nasal spray and water-based lotion as necessary.
Also, keep a pulse oximeter in your home to check your blood oxygen. If you’re still struggling to breathe or if you show symptoms of oxygen poisoning, then you need to speak with your doctor about changing your prescription. Keep a journal of any symptoms you experience so you can easily remember which ones you want to ask your doctor about.
Speak With Your Doctor
Maintaining open communication with your doctor is an important part of oxygen therapy, even if the therapy is going smoothly. Keep an eye on your oxygen levels and your overall health as you go through this therapy. If the therapy is temporary, then your doctor may take you off supplemental oxygen once your lungs and body are healed. Sometimes, though, the doctor may determine that it’s best for you to stay on oxygen therapy indefinitely. Don’t let this news worry you. With the tips in this article and support from doctors and fellow oxygen therapy users, you can navigate this life change comfortably and effectively.
Knowing how to get started on oxygen after a hospital stay can feel like a lot of work, but each step you take builds on the last. If you’re on a supplemental oxygen journey and need a home oxygen machine, Bridge to Care is here to help. Our home oxygen concentrators are quiet, reliable, and affordable, so you can breathe easier on a budget.