All About Portable Oxygen

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If you have chronic lung disease, some areas in your lungs are damaged. These damaged areas act as blockages, preventing oxygen from moving into your bloodstream. You are unable to capture enough oxygen during a breath for your body to thrive. You likely experience difficulties breathing, sleeping and performing daily activities.

See related post: Oxygen Therapy Helps COPD Sufferers.


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Oxygen therapy increases the amount of oxygen available to your bloodstream in each breath. The increased oxygen concentration eases the capture of enough oxygen by your bloodstream to supply your body. This therapy helps you breathe more comfortably, so you can enjoy your daily activities.


What are the types of oxygen supply systems?

The oxygen supply based on how much oxygen is needed, and how active the individual is. Oxygen can be supplied the following 3 ways:

  • Compressed oxygen  holds oxygen in a metal cylinder (tank) under pressure. The tank can be set to release only the amount of oxygen you need as you breathe. Compressed oxygen tanks are heavy, and are meant to be used when you stay mostly in one place. You may need help to move or secure it. Smaller tanks and wheeled carts are available to help you move with ease, or when you travel.


The Responsive Respiratory M6 Oxygen Cylinder  comes in brushed aluminum finish with clear coat-protective finish, which is lighter than steel cylinder. This cylinder designed with 5 year hydrostatic test capacity and its filling pressure is 2200 psi. These oxygen cylinders are shipped empty. This item is a case of 6


  • Liquid oxygen is kept chilled inside a small, insulated case. The liquid warms and becomes a breathable gas when you need to breathe in. Liquid oxygen cases are smaller and easy to carry around. You can refill your small liquid oxygen case from a big tank kept in your home. Your oxygen delivery service will fill your large tank every 1 to 2 weeks.

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  • An oxygen concentrator  is an electric machine that stores oxygen from the air. This machine is heavy and may come with a wheeled cart to help you move it from room to room.


Below is a video showing how to use an Oxygen Concentrator

What’s the difference between a “portable” oxygen tank and a portable oxygen concentrator?

Portable Oxygen Tank vs Portable Oxygen Concentrator

Invacare Xpo2 Portable Oxygen Concentrator  & Accessories
This lightweight, versatile and reliable oxygen concentrator has pulse settings from 1-5 to help meet the varying needs of those with respiratory ailments. FAA Approved for air-travel to make mobility, travel and independence easy.

You are probably aware that both devices deliver medical oxygen to those that require it. But the methods of delivery, as well as the device specifications, tend to differ beyond that.

The main difference between the two is in the way in which oxygen is provided.

Oxygen tanks have a finite amount of oxygen compressed within them, inhaled by the user until it runs out. Oxygen concentrators filter and generate medical grade oxygen, at an infinite supply so long as the battery that powers this mechanism has life.

An oxygen concentrator is akin to an air conditioning unit: it takes air in from one system, modifies it, and delivers it in its new state. But instead of cooling the air, oxygen concentrators compress and purify the air, removing nitrogen or other agents that complicate breathing. The new oxygen is then delivered via A nasal cannula in the desired flow setting to enhance the user’s breathing.

Tanks accomplish the same end through different means. All of the oxygen that a tank will ever have is already compressed within it. That supply is gradually reduced until the tank runs out and needs to be refilled or replaced.

That difference also highlights the dosage methods used by each type of device. All oxygen tanks deliver oxygen on Continuous Flow. With oxygen concentrators, it tends to vary by device, as some of the more portable options operate on pulse-dose delivery.

There are several other attributes that separate oxygen concentrators from oxygen tanks. Oxygen concentrators offer several advantages over oxygen systems that rely on cylinders and tanks. These advantages include:

  1. Consistency – Whereas oxygen tanks can run out of oxygen, an oxygen concentrator will never run out of oxygen as long as it has air available and a supply of power. An oxygen concentrator extracts oxygen from the air itself, making the supply unlimited and readily available.
  1. Safety – An oxygen tank could begin to leak, creating an atmosphere that includes oxygen enriched air. Air saturated with oxygen increases the risk of a fire. If a fire ignites under these circumstances, it is harder to extinguish because oxygen induced fires burn hotter than many other kinds of fires. Pulse dose oxygen concentrators simply create oxygen as needed, eliminating the concern of leaks, and therefore the concern of flammability.
  1. Size – An oxygen concentrator is designed for convenience. Oxygen tanks are generally both bulky and heavy while a portable oxygen concentrator can weigh less than 5 pounds. This makes a concentrator the perfect choice for those who want portability.
  1. Cost is another factor to consider. While each device will be priced differently, it is important to remember that when buying oxygen concentrators, the price will be largely upfront. For oxygen tanks, costs will be incurred over time in the form of new oxygen tanks purchased periodically as needed.

An oxygen concentrator is a great choice for any of the above reasons, but it is important for individuals to consider having a backup supply of oxygen in a tank available for use, as well as additional fully charged batteries in case of a power outage.

Do I want to rely on battery life or oxygen supply? What size device am I looking for? What are my intended uses for my medical oxygen? These are all questions that any medical oxygen user should be asking when deciding between a portable oxygen concentrator and an oxygen tank. It’s a decision that will affect one’s lifestyle moving forward.

In the end, it’s about deciding what offers the best chance for better breathing.

What are the types of oxygen breathing devices?

Each device is connected to the oxygen supply with tubing. The tubing should be long enough to let you move around your house. You may need a humidifier to moisten the oxygen. This may prevent dryness in your nose, mouth, and throat. Ask your caregiver if you need a humidifier, and how to attach it to your oxygen supply.

  •  A nasal cannula  is a 2-pronged plastic tube that fits inside your nostrils. Place one prong in each nostril. Loop the tubing around your ears, or attach it to your eyeglasses to keep it in place. Make sure your cannula fits you well and is comfortable.

  •  oxygen mask is attached to a plastic tube and covers your nose and mouth. It is usually held in place by an elastic strap that wraps around the back of your head. You can use an oxygen mask if you need a lot of oxygen. Your caregiver may tell you to use a nasal cannula during the day, and a  mask at night. A mask may help if your nose is dry or stuffy.



  • Transtracheal oxygen is given through a small, flexible catheter inserted into an opening in your trachea (windpipe). A necklace holds the catheter in place.

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How do I use oxygen safely?

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  • Do not use oxygen around heat or flame. Compressed oxygen can catch on fire. Keep the oxygen container 5 feet away from open flames or heaters, such as candles or hot water heaters. Do not use anything flammable, such as cleaning fluids, gasoline, or aerosol sprays near your oxygen. Keep a fire extinguisher and a phone close by in case of a fire. Tell your fire department that you have oxygen in your home if you need to call them for help.
  • Do not smoke while you are using oxygen. Do not let anyone smoke around you.

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  • Do not change the flow of your oxygen unless your caregiver tells you to. Turn your oxygen container or concentrator off when you are not using your oxygen.
  • Do not drink alcohol or take sedatives while you use oxygen. These may slow your breathing.
  • Put signs on all the doors of your house to let visitors and emergency workers know that oxygen is in use. Tell your electric company that you have electrical medical equipment. They will put you on a priority list to fix your power quickly if it goes out.
  • Follow instructions for use and maintenance of your oxygen equipment. <a href="">Invacare Xpo2 Portable Oxygen Concentrator & Accessories - XPO160</a><IMG border=0 width=1 height=1 src="" >Keep oxygen containers secured in an upright position. Oxygen containers may become damaged if they fall over. An oxygen container may cause serious injury if it breaks.


How do I clean my oxygen supplies?

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  • Wash or replace equipment parts as directed. Wash your nasal prongs with soap and water twice a week. Replace your nasal prongs every 2 weeks. Replace your tubing every 2 months, or when it becomes stiff. Change the tubing if moisture appears on the inside of the tube. Moisture can make bacteria grow, and cause infections.  Change the cannula and tubing after you have a cold or the flu.
  • Ask your caregiver how to clean your oxygen mask or transtracheal catheter. Replace the oxygen mask every 2 weeks.
  • Disinfect the buttons and outside of your oxygen concentrator. Clean your air filter at least once a week with soap and water. Let it air dry. Replace the filter at least once a week. Ask your oxygen supply company to service your concentrator at least once a year. Ask your caregiver if you have any questions about how to clean the air filter.
  • Wash your humidifier bottle with soap and warm water between each refill. Rinse and air dry the bottle before you refill it with distilled water. Do not use tap water. Disinfect the outside of the bottle and cap once the inside of the bottle has been washed.


What are some general tips for oxygen use?


  • Keep a backup oxygen supply in case of an emergency. Always keep a backup oxygen tank that does not run on electricity in case there is a power failure. Oxygen may leak out of your container. Ask your caregiver if your supply has a tool to reduce wasted oxygen.
  • Use gauze or water-based lubricants to help soothe your skin. Oxygen may dry out your skin, mouth, or throat. Place gauze on top of your ears or under the tubing on your cheeks if they become sore. Use water-based lubricants on your lips and nostrils if they become dry or sore. Do not use oil-based lubricants. They may be flammable.
  • Order new oxygen well before your current supply runs out. Your oxygen company may not deliver on holidays. Ask your caregiver for help planning your oxygen needs when you travel.
  • Keep the phone number of your oxygen supply company handy. Place it in an area that you see every day, such as on your fridge. Contact them if you have any problems with your supplies.


When should I contact my caregiver?


Contact your caregiver if:

  • The oxygen tubes create sores on your skin, or make you bleed.
  • You have trouble sleeping because you cannot breathe well.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


When should I seek immediate care?


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Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You have a headache, your heart is beating fast, and you are shaking.
  • Your breathing is shallow or slow, or more difficult than usual for you.
  • Your breathing becomes fast, or it hurts to inhale.
  • You have sudden chest pain.
  • You feel anxious or cannot sit still.
  • Your fingernails or lips turn blue.
  • You are tired, confused, cannot think clearly, or faint.


If you need to use oxygen at home, and are looking for portable oxygen for a loved one, I recommend  Medical Supply Depot.  They have been in business since 2005, and are trusted with the accounts of some of the best-known hospitals in the US.   They offer a wide variety of affordably priced oxygen equipment, and other home medical equipment.


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10 thoughts on “All About Portable Oxygen

  1. Wow, such a great post! It’s a lot of info here, and it’s so useful and interesting.
    I had no idea about portable oxygen, I thought there was only compressed oxygen because that was the only one I had heard about.
    Anyway, I’m so happy I found out about this, it’s definitely very useful for people suffering from lung diseases because they can lead a normal life in this way. I didn’t see any price there, so could you tell me an average amount of money a portable oxygen would be? 🙂

    1. Thanks for your comment, Ashley. Portable oxygen concentrators start at about $2,000. They are meant for people with chronic breathing problems who have been told by their doctor that they need to supplement oxygen. There are less expensive oxygen options (such as compressed oxygen in tanks), but the portable concentrators are much lighter, never run out of oxygen, and don’t require the purchasing of oxygen tanks. Over time, they pay for themselves and are much more convenient for people who need oxygen while away from their home.

  2. Thank you for this explanation of portable oxygen machines. As a sever asthmatic, I know all about the importance of being able to breathe, I’m fighting pneumonia as I type this. I’ll have to review a little more and decide which of the recommended machines would best suit my needs, are any of these battery operated?

    1. Hi Christian. Thank you for your comment. The portable oxygen concentrators are all battery operated. If you are suffering from pneumonia, but don’t normally need oxygen for your asthma, your breathing difficulties are likely temporary. I would recommend renting an oxygen concentrator for your home until you are ecovered from your illness. After that, you should be able to go back to using your inhaler when needed. Check with your doctor to see of oxygen would help (you will need a prescription for an oxygen machine). If needed, you can probably rent a machine through a local medical supply store (you will probably have to purchase the nasal cannula).

  3. Anyone who needs oxygen therapy will benefit from all the information and tips you offer in this post. I did not realize all the different ways in which one could receive oxygen. A portable oxygen concentrator sounds like a great option for someone who is away from home – lightweight, consistent supply and safe to use. Thanks for this valuable advice.

    1. It’s so important for people to not feel like prisoners in their home due to oxygen requirements. The lightweight oxygen concentrator allows people to live as normally as possible. Thanks for your comment, Erica.

  4. In my mind, this is such an important site. I have not seen another private site that actually goes into the problems and challenges of being a carer whether it be a loved one or as a profession.
    It is exacting enough having to cope with the everyday ups and downs of being a caregiver. Having this wealth of information for those in this position will only make their undertaking a little easier to fulfil.
    Consequently, because of this information, life is less stressful and happier for all concerned. You know exactly what you’re doing and how to go about giving the best care possible. Well done! You must be a very loving and caring person. Ches

    1. Thank you very much for your feedback, Ches; you made my day! I know that being a caregiver, I was always second-guessing myself. Sometimes, just having the right information can make us feel a little less alone and a little more courageous as we face the daily challenges.

  5. wow this is so amazing since i have my grand mother who have been suffering from breathing that use to stop more especially during rainy season and we use to be suffering searching for oxygen provider but we hardly find it. until now that i have read of it and i am willing to order one

    please provide me with the information to where that that machine can be operated



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