When you are prescribed oxygen, it’s very important to listen carefully to the delivery technician and to follow the safety guidelines that you are provided. Oxygen is a drug. You need a prescription to get supplemental oxygen whether for stationary use in your home, for portable use to get around when you leave your home, or both. There are certain criteria that must be met to qualify to receive supplemental oxygen.
If you have oxygen in your home, you have met the criteria to qualify for oxygen and you probably received both oral and written instructions and materials on oxygen safety.
Over the course of my career, many people were worried their homes were going to “blow up” now that oxygen was in the home. I knew they were truly anxious and worried if this really could happen. I told them that having oxygen in the home does not increase the oxygen concentrations in the home. I explained that if oxygen were that dangerous, you would be hearing of oxygen explosions and fires on the news because people are careless and do not always follow the safety procedures they are shown.
So, it’s safe to say your house will not blow up because of oxygen in the home. However, there are important safety precautions to take when oxygen is in the home. Oxygen is not combustible. It’s not like gasoline. But oxygen does support combustion and will make a little fire much bigger. To create a fire, you need a heat source (match, candle, stove top, etc.), something that will burn (wood paper plastic, rubber, etc. which represents the fuel), and oxygen. This is called the Fire Triangle. Now that you have the oxygen coming to your nostrils via a nasal cannula, which could easily become the fuel (you now have two elements of the fire triangle), you need to avoid encountering a heat source.
To be safe, anyone on supplemental oxygen should not come within six feet of an open flame. For example, if you are wearing oxygen, you cannot cook. Note: if you have an electric stove, it is still a source of heat and will start a fire. If you like to cook, simply remove your cannula and place it at least six feet from your stove. You can place a chair six feet away with the cannula on it and when you need to take a break from cooking, you can sit on the chair and wear your oxygen.
Smoking is a no no! Not while you are wearing oxygen. Oxygen is colorless so you can’t see it. Let’s say for this exercise that oxygen is blue in color and you can easily see it. With your cannula on your face, you would see about a cubic foot of blue oxygen around your head. You do not want a heat source coming into contact with your nasal cannula and that cubic foot of oxygen surrounding your head as you will have a high probability of a cannula fire which could prove fatal.
A product called the OxySafe fits in line with your nasal cannula and oxygen tubing that extinguishes a cannula fire before it reaches the patient or spreads. Ask your home medical equipment dealer about the OxySafe.
To conclude, oxygen is very safe to use whether you are in your home or out and about using portable oxygen such as the OxyGo portable concentrator. Remember, tens of thousands of people across the country safely use oxygen every day. One simple rule to remember is when you are wearing oxygen: there is to be no smoking. NO smoking means NO SMOKING!