Updated October 22, 2017
What is the partial pressure of oxygen (PaO2), how does it compare to oxygen saturation (PaO2), and why is it important in medicine?. Istockphoto.com/Stock Photo©Wavebreakmedia
Oxygen is a basic human need, without it, we would not survive. The air we breathe contains approximately 21 percent oxygen. For most people with healthy lungs, 21 percent oxygen is sufficient, but if you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or a condition where your lung function is impaired, the amount of oxygen obtained through normal breathing is not enough. In this case, you'll need supplemental amounts of oxygen to maintain normal body function.
If you need supplemental oxygen, chances are you won't notice your defiency yourself. Your doctor will likely be the one who notices your aren't getting enough oxygen, after testing.
Oxygen therapy is a medical treatment that requires a prescription from a healthcare provider to use it. Your doctor may prescribe a range of oxygen flow rates for different activities, such as during rest, sleep or exercise. Some people only require oxygen therapy while sleeping, while others may require it 24 hours a day. The amount and duration of oxygen therapy will depend on the recommendation of your healthcare provider. It is very important that you follow the settings exactly as prescribed, as using too much or too little can have serious consequences.
According to the American Thoracic Society, the general goal of treatment is to keep your oxygen levels usually at, or above, 88 percent.
Some studies have shown an increase in survival rates in patients who use oxygen more than 15 hours a day. According to the American Lung Association, supplemental oxygen improves sleep, mood, mental alertness, stamina, and allows individuals to carry out normal, everyday functions.
Using Oxygen Safely
Although oxygen is a safe, nonflammable gas, it supports combustion, meaning materials burn more readily in its presence. It is very important to follow general oxygen safety guidelines if you are planning to use, or be around supplemental oxygen. Some helpful tips to follow include:
· Post "No Smoking" signs around your home to remind visitors not to smoke near you or your oxygen.
· Use caution around open flames like matches and candles as well as gas heaters and stoves. If you are using supplemental oxygen, you should be at least five feet away from all heat sources.
· Try not to use lotions or creams containing petroleum as these are more likely to catch fire in the presence of oxygen.
· Turn off oxygen supply valves when not in use.
· Always follow any instructions provided to you regarding safe usage.
· In case of an emergency, make sure you have backup equipment, oxygen, and a generator.