Understanding the Basics of Oxygen Concentrator

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If you’re reading this then possibly you or your loved one needs oxygen therapy. There’s also a possibility that you have heard a lot about oxygen concentrators in the past few months that you got curious to know what exactly this device is. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced us to many new things. From special face masks to hand sanitizers, we are getting used to things we thought of earlier. With the continuous rise in the number of COVID cases globally, many countries are facing oxygen shortages and battling to save precious lives. As a result, the demand for oxygen concentrators has accelerated suddenly. Even those who have never heard of oxygen concentrators are now planning to get one to stay prepared for the worst-case scenario. Besides COVID-19 patients, oxygen concentrators are also needed for patients with chronic diseases.

What is Oxygen Therapy?

As we all know, human life is nothing without oxygen. Individuals facing respiratory issues or chronic lung diseases are prescribed oxygen therapy which provides supplemental (additional) oxygen for the organs to function normally. The need for supplemental oxygen can be either temporary or long-term. Some health conditions that require oxygen therapy include Pneumonia, Pulmonary Fibrosis, COPD, Sleep Apnea, severe asthma, or Cystic Fibrosis.

When it comes to oxygen therapy, there’s a lot of confusion between oxygen concentrator and oxygen cylinder. Patients who need oxygen therapy for more than 4 hours a day at a flow rate of 2 L/minute need a concentrator. Both concentrator and cylinder are used for providing oxygen through the masks or nasal tubes. However, unlike concentrator, oxygen cylinder needs refilling.

What is Oxygen Concentrator?

Oxygen therapy is commonly used in hospitals but patients who need extra oxygen for daily activities can also get needed oxygen support at home or even at work. Patients who need regular oxygen support are prescribed oxygen concentrator that provides safe, oxygen-enriched air for easy breathing. This machine works somewhat like an air-conditioner. It uses a compressor to draw the ambient air that mostly consists of nitrogen and oxygen. This air is then purified and the filtering apparatus helps in eliminating the nitrogen to provide pure oxygen. The patient can inhale purified through an oxygen tube and a mask or nasal cannula. Most oxygen concentrators are designed to produce 5-10 liters of oxygen per minute.

Oxygen concentrators are available in two types- continuous flow and pulse. The continuous flow oxygen concentrator is used when the patient needs the same flow of oxygen every minute. The pulse dose concentrator, on the other hand, can identify the patient’s breathing pattern to provide oxygen when inhalation is detected. The latest oxygen concentrators are portable and lightweight that makes them easier to carry. However, before buying a concentrator, it is crucial to consult a doctor to select the right model. You need to consider certain factors before buying an oxygen concentrator such as flow rate, batter life, and portability. Flow rate is the most important factor that only a qualified doctor can advise. You can find oxygen concentrators with lower flow rates- 250 to 750 milliliters per minute or with higher flow rates- 2 to 10 liters per minute.