COVID-19: How to use an oxygen concentrator at home


In many places, COVID-19 management has been seriously hampered by the inability of patients to find beds. With hospitals being filled up to their capacities, patients are having to take necessary steps to take care of themselves at home — and this includes using an oxygen concentrator at home.

An oxygen concentrator uses the air to filter oxygen and is the best solution to oxygen supply at home. Patients access this oxygen through a mask or a cannula. It is generally used for patients with respiratory issues and with the ongoing crisis of COVID-19, can be very useful for patients whose oxygen levels drop.

“A concentrator is a device that can provide oxygen for hours, it does not need to be replaced or refilled with anything. However, to help people with oxygen supplementation, one needs to know the right way to use an oxygen concentrator,” said Dr Bela Sharma, additional director, Internal Medicine, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram.

One point to remember is that one should use a concentrator only when advised by a doctor. Oxygen levels are determined with the use of a device called pulse oximeter. If the oximeter says that one’s SpO2 level or oxygen saturation is below 95 per cent, supplemental oxygen is recommended. A professional’s advice will provide more clarity on how long one should use oxygen supplement.

How to use an oxygen concentrator

Step 1 – While using, a concentrator should be kept one foot away from any object that may look like an obstruction. There should be 1 to 2 feet vacant space around the inlet of the oxygen concentrator.

Step 2 – A humidification bottle needs to be connected as a part of this step. It is usually prescribed by a professional if oxygen flow rate is greater than 2 to 3 liters per minute. A threaded cap needs to be fit into the humidification bottle into the outlet on the oxygen concentrator. The bottle needs to be twisted till it is securely attached to the machine’s outlet. Please note that you should use filtered water in the humidification bottle.

Step 3 – Then, the oxygen tube needs to be attached to either a humidification bottle or an adapter. If one is not using a humidification bottle, an oxygen adapter is used to attach the tubes.

Step 4 – The concentrator has an inlet filter that removes particles from the air. This needs to be removed or changed for cleaning. Hence, it always needs to be checked that the filter is in place before turning the machine on. The filter must be washed once a week and should be dry before use.

Step 5 – The concentrator needs to be turned on 15 to 20 minutes before use, since it needs time to begin cycling the correct concentration of air.

Step 6 – A concentrator uses a lot of power, therefore, an extension cord should not be used to power in the device, it should be directly connected to a socket.

Step 7 – Once the machine is on, you can hear the air being processed loudly. Do check if the machine is working properly.

Step 8 – Please ensure that you locate the litre control knob before use. It may be marked as litres per minute or in levels of 1, 2 and 3. The knob needs to be set as per the prescribed litres per minute

Step 9 – Before using the concentrator, check the tube for any bends. Any obstruction may cause insufficient oxygen supply

Step 10 – If a nasal cannula is being used, it should be adjusted upwards into the nostrils for high levels of oxygen. Each prong should curve up into one nostril.

Additionally, ensure that the doors or windows of the room are open so that fresh air keeps circulating in the room.

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