Oxygen is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas. Our bodies do not store oxygen. Instead, we
use the oxygen from every breath we take. A good supply of oxygen to the blood is needed to
protect the heart and brain. Your doctor will explain why you need extra oxygen.
Adding oxygen to your home care equipment is a safe way to help you breathe easier. There are
two types of oxygen systems to use in the home; an oxygen tank or cylinder, and an oxygen
Using a Home Oxygen System
ξ A doctor’s order or prescription is needed to get oxygen and equipment
because oxygen is a drug.
ξ Oxygen is about 21% of the total amount of air we normally breathe.
When someone receives extra or "supplemental" oxygen, they are
breathing oxygen at an amount greater than 21%.
ξ The prescription will tell you what the oxygen setting is (the liter flow
setting). The prescription will also tell you when to use the oxygen, and
how it will be given to you.
ξ You must use the oxygen the way the doctor has ordered it. Do not
change the flow rate without talking to your doctor. Too much or too
little oxygen can cause harm.
ξ Oxygen can be added to the heated mist system, ventilator, Cough Assist,
or the resuscitation bag. You will be shown how to add it to the equipment.
Oxygen Tank or Cylinder System
This system is portable and can be used when not at home. The oxygen is in a tank or cylinder
under high pressure. The oxygen tank must be in a stand to keep it safe. A regulator valve is
attached to the top of the tank. It controls the flow of oxygen from the tank to you. The oxygen
cylinder holds a specific amount of oxygen based on the size of the tank
and the ordered flow of oxygen that you need to use.
An oxygen concentrator is a machine that provides oxygen by sending air
in the room through filter beds. The unit plugs into electricity and provides
oxygen while the machine is running. It does not store or provide oxygen if
the machine is off.
Three things are needed to start a fire: heat, a material that will burn, and oxygen. While oxygen
itself does not burn or explode, higher amounts of oxygen in the air will make burning materials
burn hotter and faster.
ξ Oxygen must be kept away from sparks, heat sources or open flames.
ξ "Oxygen in Use" signs should be posted at the entrances to your home. The signs will be
given to you by the equipment provider.
ξ Do not allow smoking in the room in which the oxygen equipment is stored or used.
ξ Matches, cigarette lighters, electronic cigarettes, candles, sparking toys, or any electrical
equipment that gets hot, smokes or sparks, can start a fire. These things should not be
near where the oxygen is being used or stored.
ξ **People wearing oxygen should not be near gas stoves or open flames, even if their
tank or concentrator is in another room.
Materials will burn more easily where oxygen is used. Flammable things, such as oil or grease,
should not be used around an area where there is oxygen. Hair oils, ointments, or anything
containing petroleum products should not be used on anyone using oxygen. For example, do not
use Vaseline® if you use oxygen. Use a water-based lubricant, such as Ayr Nasal Gel® or K-Y®
How to use an oxygen cylinder
1. Always check the label on each tank used to be sure
that it contains oxygen.
2. If the label does not say oxygen: do not use it.
3. Using the wrench provided, slowly open the regulator valve on the
top of the tank. Turn the valve counter clockwise one complete
turn. The needle on the pressure gauge will show the amount of
pressure in the tank. Listen and feel for any leaks. If you hear or feel any leaks, turn the
valve off and contact your oxygen provider for further instructions. If you are using this
tank while training at the hospital, let your nurse or Respiratory Therapist know
that there is a leak. Do not leave the unit unless you are sure that all the equipment,
including the oxygen tank is working correctly.
4. Attach the tubing to the tapered nipple
adapter on the flowmeter. Make sure the
tubing is not kinked or cut.
5. Adjust the flowmeter knob to the ordered
6. The tank valve and flowmeter knob should
be turned off when not in use. Turn the tank
off by turning the valve clockwise. Let the
regulator bleed off the oxygen left in the
regulator after turning regulator off. This
keeps the needle from being damaged from
Safety and Handling Procedures
As stated before, it is very important to follow these safety rules with oxygen:
ξ Do not smoke if you are using oxygen.
ξ Do not allow anyone to smoke in the room where oxygen is being used or stored.
ξ Tanks should be stored upright in a tank cart or lying flat on the floor. Do not use beds or
movable objects to hold up tanks.
ξ Keep at least 10 feet away from heat sources (fireplaces, electronic cigarettes, stoves,
radiators) to prevent fires.
ξ Keep tanks away from extreme cold as cold metal may cause frostbite on bare skin.
ξ When transporting tanks in your car, they should be secured in the back seat, on the
floor. They should be padded to prevent rolling and to protect the tank stem from
damage. Never travel with a tank in the front seat of the car.
ξ If oxygen is being used in the car, open a window one inch to prevent a buildup of
ξ Each new tank has an O-ring in the dust cap. If it is one color it is not the correct O-ring.
The correct O-ring has two colors. Please be sure the O-ring is black and gold or green
ξ Each new tank always uses exactly one O-ring when attaching the regulator to the oxygen
ξ A full tank has about 2000 pounds of pressure in it. Read the pressure on the gauge. The
table below is an estimate of how long a full tank of oxygen will last at different flow
Flow Rate A – cylinder D – cylinder E – cylinder M60 - cylinder
.25 11.4 hours 21.2 hours 37.2 hours
.5 5.7 hours 10.6 hours 18.6 hours
1 2.8 hours 5.3 hours 9.3 hours 28.2 hours
2 1.4 hours 2.6 hours 4.6 hours 14.2 hours
3 1.0 hours 1.7 hours 3.1 hours 9.4 hours
4 42 minutes 1.3 hours 2.3 hours 7 hours
5 34 minutes 1.0 hours 1.8 hours 5.6 hours
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 7/2016 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#7851