Supplemental Oxygen Therapy

  • The body’s functions all depend upon delivery of a steady supply of oxygen
  • Because IPF decreases the transfer of oxygen into the blood stream, some patients may require additional oxygen to reduce breathlessness. This allows patients to be more active
  • Some patients may need oxygen therapy all the time, while others may only need it for exercise or normal living exertion. Some may not need it while asleep. A personal oximeter can be useful for monitoring when you should be using oxygen
  • By testing the saturation level of oxygen in a patient’s blood, a physician can determine if a patient requires supplemental oxygen
  • Most often oxygen therapy is supplied through a nasal cannula.
    • This is a thin tube with two prongs that fits just inside your nostrils
  • You can also use a pendant oximizer, which allows for equivalent oxygen saturations at much lower flow rates
  • People who need a lot of oxygen may need to use a mask that fits over the nose and mouth
  • If you use a nasal cannula:
    • Wash the nasal prongs with soap and water 1 ‐ 2 times a week
    • Replace the prongs every 2 – 4 weeks. If you have a cold, change them when your symptoms pass
    • Use a water-based moisturizer on your lips and in your nose to prevent drying and cracking. Petroleum-based products plug the air holes
    • Put a piece of gauze under the tubing to keep the skin behind your ears from getting sore


Oxygen can be delivered to your home in tanks, or cylinders, or it can be produced in your home by a machine called an oxygen concentrator

  • Compressed oxygen gas

Tanks of oxygen gas come in several sizes. Small tanks can be carried when you leave home. Large tanks are heavy and are usually not moved after they are placed in the home

  • Liquid oxygen – Oxygen takes up less space in liquid form than as a gas. Compared to tanks of oxygen gas, tanks of liquid oxygen weigh less and hold more oxygen, so they may be a good choice for people who are active

Supplemental oxygen is NOT addictive

  • The proper amount of oxygen in the bloodstream is necessary to maintain normal body functions. Low blood oxygen levels can lead to additional health problems
  • If your doctor has prescribed supplemental oxygen, use it as prescribed
  • Do not change the setting on your oxygen without talking to your doctor first. Turning the flow rate up or down could put you in danger
  • Keep track of how much oxygen is in the tank, and order more in advance so you don’t run out
  • Do not drink alcohol, smoke or take drugs that relax you, such as sleeping pills or sedatives, while using oxygen. They can cause you to breathe too slowly
  • If your oxygen levels are falling with exercise, use more oxygen rather than limiting your exercise. Physical activity is an essential part of living well with IPF.
  • Oxygen is a fire hazard. It will make a flame burn hotter and faster. Be sure to follow safety instructions and keep away from open flame and direct heat