Oxygen Therapy

Supplemental oxygen can help you keep active and improve your quality of life.

Try to focus on all that supplemental oxygen can help you to continue doing, rather than seeing it as some kind of failure or focusing on the inconvenience.

Every part of our body relies on oxygen to function

Although it should be an effortless act, breathing for people with a lung disease like pulmonary fibrosis (PF) can be a painful, challenging experience.

It is common for people with PF to use supplemental oxygen, although not everyone needs it. Feeling breathless is a complicated process. Some people feel out of breath, but their oxygen levels are within the normal range. And some people won’t feel out of breath when their blood oxygen levels are too low (hypoxemia). Supplemental oxygen will only help you if your blood oxygen levels are too low.

Woman in wheel chair trying to catch her breath

Supplemental Oxygen

Knowing when you need supplemental oxygen

Your doctor will know if you need supplemental oxygen by doing tests such as the 6-minute walk test, arterial blood gases, and checking your pulse oximetry. You may need oxygen all the time, only with physical activity, or when you sleep.

You will be tested for your oxygen saturation; how much of the hemoglobin contains oxygen. It should be greater than 90 per cent at all times. Your physician will also test your arterial blood gases by taking a small amount of blood from an artery, usually the wrist. You may be tested while at rest and while walking. These tests will determine whether you qualify for oxygen therapy.

Doctor checking patient for oxygen with stethoscope

Oxygen therapy benefits

Supplemental oxygen will NOT cure your PF, however many people report that they have less breathlessness, fatigue and can live a more active lifestyle. Even if oxygen therapy does not take away your breathlessness, it can help you maintain proper blood oxygen levels which is important for your muscles, organs, and brain to function properly. 

You cannot get addicted to oxygen. It is important to treat your oxygen as a prescription and use it exactly as your doctor prescribes.

Using oxygen therapy

It can take time to adjust to using supplemental oxygen. There are some things that might be more difficult with supplemental oxygen. For example, it may be more challenging leaving the house and carrying your oxygen, but newer models are increasingly light and portable. It can also make some things easier since you may experience less breathlessness, and you may get less tired doing activities.

There is some stigma associated with using oxygen in public. You may feel embarrassed. Try to focus on how oxygen therapy enables you to do the things you love, rather than consider it a failure or an indication that your disease is progressing towards the end. Explain to your family and friends how oxygen therapy helps you, to increase everyone’s comfort level.

Man in kitchen holding chord from oxygen machine
Oxygen concentrator

Oxygen therapy systems

There are different types of machines that you can use to get supplemental oxygen. They are increasingly becoming lighter, more portable and easier to use. You will decide which option(s) is best for you with your doctor and your supplemental oxygen supplier.

Using Oxygen Systems at Home

Learn more about how supplemental oxygen equipment can be set up and used at home to help you go about your daily activities.

Oxygen Concentrator

Portable Oxygen Concentrator (POC)

Oxygen Storage Pendant

Long Oxygen Tubes with Canula

Travelling with Oxygen

Although traveling can be tiring if you have PF, there is no reason to stay at home while others take vacations, visit family, or travel for business. Even if you are on supplemental oxygen, with proper advance planning, you can travel safely.

Planning for Travel with Supplemental Oxygen

Ground Travel

Air Travel

More on Oxygen Therapy

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