Healthy Living

Pneumonia: What is Oxygen Therapy?

Pneumonia: What is Oxygen Therapy?

Key Takeaways

  • Oxygen therapy delivery systems
  • Dangers of oxygen therapy
  • Benefits of oxygen therapy

Pneumonia: What is Oxygen Therapy?

Oxygen therapy is special treatment that is aimed to provide extra oxygen for your body. Oxygen is a gas which is needed for your body cells to metabolize and also work well. It is a normal function for your lungs to absorb oxygen from an air mixture. However, some infections and diseases may prevent your lungs from getting enough oxygen. Under these circumstances, oxygen therapy can make your body more active and function better. Oxygen is supplied in metal cylinders or other types of containers and then transported to the lungs in one of the following ways:

  • By use of a face mask. The mask is fitted over your nose and the mouth
  • Through nasal cannula. The nasal cannula is made up of two small plastic tubes which are placed on both nostrils
  • Oxygen can also be delivered through an insertion of a small tube on your wind pipe through the neck. Your doctor may need to make a small incision to place the tube. Oxygen delivered by such process is referred to as transtracheal oxygen therapy.

Oxygen therapy can be performed at home, in a hospital, or in other medical settings for people who have low oxygen supply as a result of lung cancer, pneumonia, ARDS, and COPD, among other lung infections.

Treating pneumonia

Oxygen therapy is just one of many methods to consider when treating pneumonia. Before oxygen therapy is introduced, there are more streamlined methods with managing pneumonia. These methods are commonly used to treat community-acquired pneumonia, which is vastly different than a hospital or clinic induced form of the disease. For the more common infection, there are a few commonly used treatment measures. They include antibiotics, over-the-counter pain relievers, and cough medicines.

Antibiotics are most often used to treat the bacterial form of pneumonia. In conjunction with antibiotics, cough medicine can be used to lessen the severity of a cough and help alleviate associated symptoms. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as Advil, Motrin, and ibuprofen can be used to relieve fever symptoms.

There are times when the disease becomes much more severe, and, in these instances, hospitalization may be required. There are a few factors which indicate the need for hospitalization for pneumonia. For example, if your body temperature is below normal, if you have an abnormal heart rate (above 100 or below 50 is considered abnormal), or if there are more serious complications, such as decreased kidney function and systolic blood pressure complications, it is important to get immediate medical attention.

Children are known to be more susceptible to the serious forms of pneumonia, and it can be fatal if not treated properly and efficiently. Hospitalization can occur if the child is younger than 2 months old. If they appear dehydrated or are showing troubles breathing, then it is important to seek emergency medical attention. Low blood oxygen levels can also be seen as a cause of pneumonia in children.

Oxygen delivery systems

Oxygen therapy is used to treat a variety of health conditions. Whether its implementation is due to COPD or pneumonia, re-oxygenating the blood in severe cases of associated diseases can make a big difference in treating oxygen deprivation. Oxygen therapy can also help your body function more effectively, adding much needed stamina to an otherwise lethargic day. 

As stated earlier, an oxygen can is administered in a better way through nose masks, cannulae, and nasal catheters. The following are less expensive, simpler to use, and more comfortable delivery systems you can implement:

  • Nasal catheter.  Nasal catheters are made of light rubber and are usually inserted after their lubrication with liquid paraffin. They are lubricated until their tips are seen behind the uvula part of the oropharynx.
  • Nasal cannulae. The nasal cannulae are special plastic tubes which are inserted on each naris. The nasal cannulae are very comfortable and are mostly used for patients without hypercapnia who mainly require oxygen concentrations of up to 40 percent. Nasal cannulae are mostly used for domiciliary oxygen therapy. When using nasal cannulae, oxygen needs to be humidified.
  • Venturi mask. The venturi mask usually fits over your nose and the mouth. Oxygen is allowed to flow from the cylinders in the form of a jet through a narrow system, and the base of the mask is what creates negative pressure. Venturi masks are available in different forms, which can convey and deliver low and fixed concentrations of oxygen at 25%, 30%, 35%, and 40 percent. The masks are very comfortable and can be removed during meals.

What are the dangers of oxygen therapy?

There are three types of dangers or risks linked to oxygen use:

1.      Physical Risks

Oxygen, being a combustible gas, can cause tank explosion and fire hazards among other physical risks. These types of risks can be caused by use of pressure chambers in smokers and by use of high concentrations of oxygen. Another physical risk caused by oxygen therapy is mouth and nose injury. This is a result of masks and catheters delivering non-humidified or dry gas. The dry gases mostly cause crusting and dryness of your mouth.

2.      Functional risks

Individuals who have lost sensitivity to carbon (IV) oxide and are on the hypoxic drive are in big danger of ventilatory depression, as mostly seen in COPD patients. Hypoventilation on the lungs can lead to carbon (IV) oxide and hypercapnia with a low flow of oxygen during therapy. Arterial pH is therefore a perfect guide to monitor oxygen volumes during oxygen therapy. As long as the arterial pH does not show any acidosis, oxygen therapy can be beneficial in patients with carbon (IV) oxide retention.

3.      Cytotoxic Damage

There is a high chance of developing proliferative fibrotic changes in the lungs for COPD patients receiving oxygen therapy and on autopsy. In the case of acute conditions, cytotoxic damage can be a result of high FiO2. FiO2 develops, since oxygen leads to the release of different types of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which attack the lipids, SH-containing proteins, and DNA.

Bottom line

As oxygen therapy is used as a life saver for patients with respiratory failure, following the correct guidelines for oxygen administration can help you to deliver a fair and consistent oxygen concentration. When performing oxygen therapy, dangers of oxygen toxicity should be kept in mind. However, some conditions, such as hypoxia, should not be left untreated. Hypoxia is very common, and its damage is accelerated by oxygen toxicity. Hypoxia is generally treated through oxygen therapy.

Oxygen therapy will allow you to function better and maintain an active lifestyle or routine. Due to the nature of compressed oxygen, it can be hazardous. While explosions related to oxygen tanks are uncommon, it is important to follow any guidelines or rules set forth by the manufacturer. Ask your doctor if you have any questions about operating the oxygen tank, and refer to the instructions given by the manufacturer to follow application guidelines.

An oxygen tank need not prevent you from your daily activities or routines, as this is the common thought when oxygen tanks come to mind. They are large, unsightly, and can be problematic to move around with. There are alternatives to the larger tanks, which include smaller more portable forms of the oxygen transport system. These are easier to conceal and make going about your daily activities much easier.