By Victor Montour
The exact number of people receiving home oxygen therapy is unknown. In a 2006 study done for the American Association for Homecare, Morrison Informatics, Inc. noted that more than 1 million Medicare recipients use at home medical oxygen therapy.
With the increase in the aging population it is becoming more important for people using home medical oxygen to understand the proper use and safety precautions for in home oxygen use. Practicing oxygen safety is necessary to prevent injury and the loss of property from fire. Learning how to properly store and use your home oxygen system is critical. Below are the three most common oxygen delivery systems supplied for at home use.
- Compressed gas storage –E Tank.
- Oxygen Concentrator
Because oxygen is a non-flammable, colorless, odorless and tasteless gas the user and caregiver are not aware of the hazard oxygen presents in the home. With proper use of oxygen at home the environment around the patient becomes saturated or most commonly called enriched with oxygen. What does that mean?
On any given day there is 21% oxygen in the air. When you place a patient on oxygen in a room the concentration of oxygen in the room will increase. This increase continues the longer the patient is using oxygen. This constant increase of oxygen not only enriches the air, but it enriches the patients hair, clothing, bedding and any other combustible material in the home. An oxygen enriched atmosphere cannot be detected by normal human senses. Oxygen also does not give any physiological effects which could alert people to the presence of an oxygen enriched environment.
As mentioned before, oxygen by itself is non-flammable, but, when you put it with a combustible material and an ignition source you will have yourself a faster starting and hotter burning fire. Oxygen can and will accelerate burning during a fire.
During 2002-2005, oxygen equipment was involved in an estimated average of 209 home fires reported to local fire departments per year. These fires caused an average of 46 civilian deaths and 62 civilian injuries per year. One of every five such fires resulted in death.
Smoking is by far the leading cause of burns, reported fires, deaths, and injuries involving home medical oxygen.
Fire Safety Tips
- DO NOT SMOKE in the home of the oxygen set-up or around an oxygen patient.
- Oxygen is not a flammable gas and will not explode. However, oxygen can cause fires to burn things faster and ignite easier.
- DO NOT use petroleum-based ointments or lotions in or around your nose, such as Vaseline, Vicks, Chapstick, etc. Oxygen can react violently with these oily substances and can cause burns.
- Keep all oxygen equipment at least 15 feet from any type of open flame.
- Do Not use open flames while using oxygen. This includes matches, cigarettes, fireplaces, barbeques, stoves, space heaters, candles, E-cigarettes, electric razors, toys that make a spark, etc.
- Have working smoke alarms installed throughout your home.
- Prepare a home escape plan for you and your family in the event of a fire.
- Use caution with oxygen tubing so you do not trip over it or become entangled in furniture.
- Notify the local fire department, gas and electric companies and telephone company when home oxygen therapy is started. Request a “priority service listing.” This is for those times when there is a power or telephone failure or repairs are needed on any utility
Oxygen Storage and Handling
- Oxygen tanks should be stored in a stand or cart to prevent tipping and falling.
- Store extra, unsecured tanks by placing them flat on the floor. Do not allow tanks to stand or lean in an upright position while unsecured.
- DO NOT store oxygen systems in unventilated areas such as closets or cabinets.
- Do Not drape clothing or other combustible material over oxygen systems.
- DO NOT store oxygen systems in the trunk of your car.
- Keep all oxygen equipment at least 15 feet from any type of open flame or electrical outlet.
If you would like more information about Front Range Hospice or have questions about in home oxygen safety please call 303-957-3101 or 970-776-8080 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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