Using Oxygen at Home

Your doctor has prescribed oxygen to help make breathing easier for you. You will be shown how to use your oxygen unit. Below are some guidelines on using oxygen at home safely. Do all steps each time you use your oxygen unit.
Note: Instructions will vary based on the type of oxygen device you use.

Illustration showing the steps for using an oxygen tank at home.

Step 1. Check your supply

  • Pressurize your oxygen tank (compressed oxygen tanks only). Other devices may simply be switched on. Make sure you follow the instructions provided by your doctor or medical equipment company.

  • Check the oxygen supply level on the tank to be sure you have enough. Your medical supply company will tell you when to call them to let them know that you need more oxygen. Or they will deliver your oxygen on a regular schedule.

  • If you have a humidifier bottle, check the water level. When it is at or below 1/2 full, refill it with sterile or distilled water.

Step 2. Attach the tubing

  • Attach the cannula tubing (long oxygen tubing) to your oxygen source as you have been shown.

  • Be sure the tubing is not bent or blocked.

Step 3. Set your prescribed flow rate

  • Set the oxygen to flow at the rate your doctor has prescribed. This is _____________.

  • Never change this rate unless told to by your doctor.

Step 4. Insert the cannula

  • Insert the nasal cannula into your nose and breathe through your nose normally.

  • If you’re not sure whether oxygen is flowing, place the nasal cannula in a glass of water. Bubbles mean that oxygen is flowing.

Follow safety guidelines when using oxygen in your home

  • Avoid open flames. This includes cigarettes, matches, candles, fireplaces, gas burners, pipes, or anything else that could start a fire.

  • Don't smoke or be around others who are smoking.

  • Keep oxygen tanks at least 5 feet from gas stoves, space heaters, electric or gas heaters, or any heat sources.

  • Don't use lotions or creams that contain petroleum jelly. This substance can be flammable when mixed with pure oxygen.

  • Turn oxygen off when you aren't using it.

  • Store the oxygen cylinder upright in a secure, approved storage device. 

  • Make sure you know what to do in an emergency. Your emergency numbers should include 911 (or your area's emergency number), your health care provider, and your medical supply company.

  • Always follow the instructions for safe use as recommended by your medical supply company.

Maintain your equipment

Ask your medical supply company how often you should change your nasal cannula tubing, your cannula, and your humidifier bottle, if you have one.