at-home oxygen therapy : oxygen concentrator and pulse oximeter

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introduction

To survive, we need our lungs to send out oxygen to the cells in our bodies. Your oxygen saturation or SPO2 determines how much oxygen your blood is carrying as a percentage of the maximum oxygen that it could carry.

For a healthy individual, ideal SPO2 levels should be between 96-99 percent. However, certain situations and conditions may make our oxygen levels fall below healthy levels. These include:

  • Congenital heart diseases
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Asthma
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Low oxygen levels caused due to obesity
  • Staying at high altitude for long periods
  • Poor blood oxygen levels due to certain neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease
  • Flu
  • COVID 19

These SPO2 levels may cause a host of issues such as breathlessness, coughing, memory issues, and chronic fatigue. In this case, you may need to take supplemental oxygen, which is known as oxygen therapy.

Oxygen therapy is not just limited to a medical setting i.e. at the hospital or a clinic. It is easy to administer at-home oxygen therapy with the help of a pulse oximeter and an oxygen concentrator.

While a pulse oximeter measures your blood oxygen levels while an oxygen concentrator delivers the required amount of oxygen based on the user’s requirement and breathing patterns.

what do you need to know about oxygen concentrators?

An oxygen concentrator is a device that provides extra oxygen to a patient who is experiencing breathing issues. It filters and concentrates the oxygen molecules from the ambient air. It does so by receiving the air, separating the nitrogen, dust particles, and other impurities from the air, and then distributing the newly formed air. The air that goes in has 80 percent nitrogen and 20 percent oxygen. and the sir that comes out is almost 90-95 pure oxygen and 5-10 per cent nitrogen.

A home oxygen concentrator is made up of a compressor, sieve bed filters, pressure valve, and a nasal cannula (oxygen mask). It is a compact device of the size of a lunchbox.

An oxygen concentrator at home should be used only by patients who are mild to moderately ill with oxygen concentrations between 90-94 percent. But this should be only under medical guidance.

People who are severely ill can use an oxygen concentrator only till the time they reach a hospital and switch to an oxygen cylinder with a higher flow of oxygen.

Portable oxygen concentrators have two kinds of settings:

  • Pulse dose: This home oxygen concentrator detects the breathing patterns of the patient and releases oxygen on detecting inhalation. This means that oxygen is delivered each time you breathe in. In case the rate of breathing increases, the concentrator will react automatically and release a puff of oxygen as needed.
  • Continuous flow: This home oxygen concentrator offers the most common form of oxygen delivery where a patient receives a supply of oxygen at a steady rate irrespective of whether they are breathing or not.

how to monitor oxygen levels at home?

If you have a lung or heart condition, you may be required to periodically monitor your SPO2 levels at home, known as pulse oximetry. This is also required if a person has been diagnosed with novel respiratory disease such a COVID 19.

Pulse oximetry is a simple non-invasive and painless process that assesses if your blood has enough oxygen and if you need supplemental oxygen.

At times, in mild cases, people don’t get to know if they need extra oxygen. This is where a pulse oximeter comes in which gives readings on the state of your blood oxygen levels.

what do you need to know about pulse oximeters?

A pulse oximeter is a tiny handheld device that can measure your oxygen levels by estimating your SPO2 levels. This oxygen check machine has a built-in electronic processor and two light-emitting diodes, out of which one is red and the other is infrared with different wavelengths. It is clipped on the tip of your index finger and passes small beams of light through the blood in your finger, which measures changes in the amount of light that is absorbed in oxygenated and deoxygenated blood.

This device gives out readings that estimate your blood oxygen levels. These readings are interpreted as:

A reading between 96-100 percent is considered ideal for most people.

A reading below 95 per cent is considered to be low and needs to be discussed with your doctor. These ranges may not apply to people who are suffering from lung diseases such as COPD. In this case, usually, the readings fall between 88-92 per cent.

A reading that goes below 92 per cent is considered to be abnormal and needs to be checked urgently.

how to select an oxygen concentrator and pulse oximeter?

Both an oxygen check machine and an oxygen concentrator for home are critical devices that have the potential to save lives. That’s why it is essential to select both of these very carefully.

We understand that the decision of buying these devices may get overwhelming for some people, especially those who are new to home oxygen therapy treatment.

Here we have simplified all the information about these two devices to help you make an informed decision:

Oxygen check machine:

Never compromise on the quality of a pulse oximeter. This is critical to buy the best pulse oximeter that gives accurate readings that indicate the state of your health. You can choose devices from brands such as Contec to get a reliable reading each time. Remember to check the certifications.

Look for clear and bright display panels.

The best pulse oximeter is one that is durable and water-resistant.     Compare the features and the price oximeter prices. Usually, they range between INR 1000-4000.

Oxygen concentrator for home:

The most important consideration while buying an oxygen concentrator for home is your doctor’s prescription. They will guide the best device depending on your specific needs.

Another critical consideration is the flow rate of the portable oxygen concentrator. This decides the rate at which oxygen flows from the machine to the patient. Ideally, you should buy a device that is capable of delivering a higher flow rate than what’s recommended for you. This ensures your safety in case of an emergency.

Look for the noise levels of the oxygen concentrator. People sensitive to noises must opt for devices that operate silently.

The accessories should be of good quality. This helps in doing away with frequent replacements.

The warranty period of your oxygen concentrator for home is also an important consideration. This gives you peace of mind and value for money. 

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