How oxygen products can support your health
Millions of people in the UK live with conditions that affect their breathing. If you have asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or even long COVID, you might have been given instructions by your doctor to use oxygen products.
These are gadgets designed to be used in the home that can make it easier to breathe, take your medicine, and check your oxygen levels.
The main type of oxygen products
There are five main types of oxygen product that you may need to keep in your home if you have a condition affecting your breathing:
For an easy guide to these products and how they work, read on.
An oximeter (also known as a pulse oximeter) measures the level of oxygen in your blood, and how fast your heart is beating. You might need to use one if you have a condition that affects your breathing.
An oximeter is a small, portable device designed to clip over the end of either your index or middle finger. Once clipped onto your finger, the oximeter will show up two numbers: your pulse, and the level of oxygen in your blood. This process is completely painless.
If you write these numbers down each time you use the oximeter, you’ll be able to tell if your condition is OK, or if you need medical help.
Watch our video below to find out more about how to use an oximeter:
Browse oximeters available at LloydsPharmacy:
What should my oxygen level be?
If you’re checking your oxygen using an oximeter, you’ll need to be familiar with what a healthy oxygen level is.
According to the NHS:
- 95 to 100 is normal
- 93 or 94 is low – if your oxygen level stays at 93 or 94 you should ring 111 or talk to your GP
- 92 or lower is dangerously low – if you get a reading of 92 or lower, take it again straight away, and if the number remains in this region call 999 or go to A&E immediately
Find out more by consulting this page from the NHS: How to look after yourself at home if you have coronavirus.
A nebuliser converts certain liquid medicine into a mist, allowing you to breathe it in through a mask or mouthpiece. It’s a good way of getting a large dose of medicine quickly.
You might need a nebuliser at home if you have a condition like cystic fibrosis or bronchiectasis. Nebulisers can also be used by people with severe asthma or COPD, but this is less common.
What medication can be used with a nebuliser?
Lots of different types of medicines can be used with nebulisers, including bronchodilators (which open your airways) and antibiotics. These medicines are usually available on the NHS, but you may have to buy your nebuliser yourself.
Who can use one?
According to the British Lung Foundation, you should only use a nebuliser at home if it’s been recommended by a healthcare professional. You’ll need to be trained how to use it and keep it clean to avoid infection.
Browse nebulisers available at LloydsPharmacy:
You should only have a nebuliser at home if you’ve been recommended one by a doctor.
A breathing trainer, like the REVITIVE Aerosure respiratory device helps people with lung conditions strengthen their lung muscles. It can help to relieve breathlessness and the symptoms of asthma.
Your doctor might prescribe a breathing trainer like POWERbreathe if your diaphragm has become weak due to surgery or an ongoing condition like asthma or COPD. According to this NHS guide to POWERbreathe devices, you shouldn’t try to use one until you’ve had training, so it’s important to talk to your doctor first.
Do I need a breathing trainer for COVID-19?
If you’re struggling with breathlessness due to COVID-19, a breathing trainer may help. Just make sure you speak to your doctor before you buy anything.
An oxygen concentrator is a machine that extracts oxygen from the air and delivers it to your lungs using a face mask or nasal cannula (tubes that go into the nose).
You might need one if you don’t have enough oxygen in your blood and have a serious condition like COPD, cystic fibrosis, severe asthma or heart failure. If you do need one it will be supplied on the NHS and fitted by an engineer who can teach you how to use it safely.
Are oxygen concentrators portable?
It’s also possible to buy a portable oxygen concentrator. The BLF recommends that you consult your respiratory team before you buy one. You should also buy one from a reputable provider and make sure you trial the device first.
Do I need a portable oxygen concentrator for COVID-19?
A portable oxygen concentrator can be used in combination with a static concentrator in your home, and you’ve spoken to your doctor or respiratory team.
An oxygen canister is a small, portable can with a mouthpiece that contains pure oxygen. It’s largely designed for use after strenuous exercise, to give you a boost of oxygen and energy.
Oxygen canisters are different from oxygen cylinders, which are designed for use by people with serious conditions affecting their ability to breathe.
Do I need oxygen canisters for COVID-19?
Oxygen canisters aren’t listed as a treatment for COVID-19 by the NHS, but you might find that you get some benefit from using one. They shouldn’t be used as a substitute for any other treatments or breathing techniques recommended by your doctor. Please speak to your doctor before you buy an oxygen canister.