Can Anyone Use a Portable Oxygen Concentrator?

Can Anyone Use a Portable Oxygen Concentrator?

Portable oxygen concentrators and other oxygen devices are not for everyone and should only be used in serious respiratory cases. 

Although there are many other treatment options, supplemental oxygen is nearly universally recommended in traditional therapy choices for chronic lung illnesses such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary fibrosis (PF), and emphysema at the most severe stages of the disease.

The use of supplemental oxygen has been a mainstay in the treatment of lung disease because it can help people who have trouble getting enough oxygen daily. 

Who Can Use a Portable Oxygen Concentrator?

Oxygen is a gas constrained in the air we breathe and is essential for human survival. If you have chronic lung illness, your organs may require supplemental oxygen to execute their functions properly. Many patients find using portable oxygen concentrators, or POCs, helpful when needing supplemental oxygen away from home.

Portable oxygen concentrators (POC) are a relatively modern discovery compared to other types of pulsed oxygen delivery systems. POCs are becoming increasingly popular as technology advances and benefits to the user are demonstrated, such as in terms of size, weight, operational time, or the capacity to be used on passenger flights. 

Patients with breathing problems 

man wearing a nasal cannula while lying down

Oxygen depletion can occur in a variety of conditions, including lung disease. Oxygen therapy may be helpful in several situations. Doctors used to treat a huge number of patients with prescribed supplemental oxygen. However, research suggests that oxygen is useless until a person's oxygen level is extremely low. After a while, high oxygen intake can cause significant damage to the lungs.

To verify that only those who require it receive extra oxygen, doctors use a pulse oximeter, a blood test, or a fingertip sensor to evaluate the oxygen levels in a patient's bloodstream. Pulse oximetry may be used to change oxygen flow settings (the amount of oxygen the individual receives per minute) over time once the optimal oxygen level has been reached.

Patients with heart disease

 man with heart disease holding chest

The most common reason for requiring supplemental oxygen is lung illness, although there are a variety of other disorders that may necessitate the usage of oxygen, including heart disease

When you have heart failure, your heart muscle may weaken and may not pump blood correctly. Decreased blood circulation implies that your body does not receive the oxygen it requires. If this occurs, your doctor may recommend that you begin oxygen treatment.

Extra oxygen is provided throughout this therapy, ensuring that you get all your body requires. Oxygen therapy is also something that you can accomplish at home. Even though it is not a treatment for heart failure, it may help prevent significant complications caused by low oxygen levels, such as damage to the heart or brain. Aside from that, this can also alleviate symptoms such as shortness of breath and swelling in the ankles

If you use oxygen regularly during the day and night, an oxygen concentrator may be more cost-effective and convenient than an oxygen tank. This machine has no tanks or runs out of oxygen since it draws oxygen straight from the surrounding air. Because it operates on electricity, you'll need a backup plan if your energy goes out or something goes wrong with the machine. Because it is on wheels, you can move this device between rooms despite its weight of nearly 30 pounds.

If you’re using a portable oxygen concentrator, you have even more mobility as it has a battery of its own.

People at extremely high altitudes

man in high altitude

Occasionally, more oxygen is only required under extreme circumstances. For example, you may require oxygen at extremely high elevations (such as those found in the mountains or onboard an airline) even though you do not require it at sea level.

As you go up in the air or the mountains, the air gets thinner. Managing a respiratory illness can be difficult when there isn't enough air. A very thin air makes it hard to breathe, even for people who do not use oxygen therapy. 

It's important to know how to use and manage an oxygen concentrator properly before going to a new place, especially for people with COPD, as they feel this change in air the most. So that you can stay comfortable and breathe normally, your concentrator has to work harder to give you enough oxygen. 

Many portable oxygen concentrators can be used at high altitudes, which is good because many are. You can buy a portable oxygen concentrator that works well at more than 10,000 feet above sea level. Whether you're going on a plane, going to a place above sea level, or going on a mountain hike, make sure your portable oxygen concentrator is ready for the trip, too.

During Exercise

old couple walking on treadmill

Exercise with oxygen therapy is a technique for increasing oxygen consumption while exercising. Many users value the benefits of exercising with oxygen treatment. No supplements or medicines are needed.

Exercising with oxygen therapy is to inhale increased oxygen concentrations while exercising. You may achieve this by using oxygen concentrators to boost the quality of the air. While using exercise equipment like a treadmill, someone exercising with oxygen can breathe in the high purity oxygen from the machine using a mask or nasal cannula.

Our bodies must break down the air and absorb the pure oxygen for biological processes. Even though the air we breathe already contains oxygen, pure oxygen boosts the body's natural absorption rate.

Your body and mind can benefit in a variety of ways, including:

  • Increasing amounts of energy
  • Improving concentration mood
  • Relieving headaches and reducing stress
  • Increasing athletic and sporting performance
  • Improving sleep quality

Diseases That Require Oxygen Therapy Using Oxygen Concentrators

A portable oxygen concentrator is for individuals who have trouble breathing due to a low amount of oxygen in their blood due to lung disorders. Some of the following conditions may need the use of supplementary oxygen, either temporarily or permanently:

  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) 
  • COVID-19
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  •  Pneumonia 
  • A severe asthma attack 
  • Sleep apnea


old man with COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a prevalent and avoidable illness. Since this is chronic, COPD is a persistent lung disease that lasts over an extended period.

COPD is the accepted term previously referred to as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COAD). Obstruction occurs as a result of lung tissue injury. COPD is caused by harmful chemicals such as cigarette smoke and indoor or outdoor air pollution introduced into the lungs.

Your lungs get injured and rigid with time, causing you to feel out of breath when walking and eventually even when sitting. You may experience symptoms in your 50s and 60s. However, if you have smoked since childhood, the alterations in your lungs may have been happening at an earlier time. 

People with COPD need to get oxygen therapy if they have trouble with their oxygen levels when they are at rest. Some of the other uses of long-term oxygen therapy, such as a moderate or exercise-induced decrease in oxygen levels, transient decrease during sleep, and palliative care, don't have strong evidence-based support from studies.

Despite these findings, oxygen is often delivered in these scenarios. However, you must be careful not to have too much oxygen, as this is potentially dangerous.


doctors talking to a COVID patient

Chronic coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)-related morbidity and death are mostly caused by acute viral pneumonia that progresses to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

The need for more respiratory assistance increases as patients' symptoms advance, and depending on the institution and the patient's features, this may demand intensive care unit-level care.

When SARS-CoV-2 infects a person, it causes a disease known as COVID-19, which can cause a respiratory tract infection. Your upper respiratory tract (sinuses, nose, and throat) or lower respiratory tract (windpipe and lungs) may be affected by this infection.

Like other coronaviruses, it spreads mostly through direct contact between individuals. Minor infections might progress to life-threatening complications.

The following are the main symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • a feeling of being out of breath
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Fatigue
  • Chills, occasionally accompanied with shaking
  • Aches and pains throughout the body
  • Headache
  • Throat discomfort
  • Constriction of the nasal passages/runny nose
  • loss of the sense of smell or flavor
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea

Pneumonia, respiratory failure, cardiac issues, liver problems, septic shock, and death are all possible consequences of the infection. Many COVID-19 problems may be triggered by a disease called cytokine release syndrome or a cytokine storm, which is a disorder that affects the immune system.

This condition occurs when an infection prompts your immune system to release many inflammatory proteins known as cytokines into your circulation. They have the potential to destroy tissue and harm your organs. Lung transplants have been required in a few rare instances.

The severe signs and symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • Breathing difficulties or shortness of breath 
  • Persistent Chest discomfort or pressure 
  • Confusion
  • Unable to completely awaken
  • Bluish lips or face

Medical oxygen shortages continue to have a significant impact on hospitals that are already strained to their limits as health professionals worldwide offer treatment to patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 and its several variants. 

While portable oxygen concentrators have provided some relief to many people suffering from respiratory distress, these machines are sometimes unable to generate enough medical oxygen to meet the fluctuating demands of a patient suffering from worsening symptoms, necessitating their re-admission to the hospital.

However, despite their numerous advantages, oxygen concentrators are frequently constructed with set specifications, restricting their ability to satisfy the oxygen demands of patients who experience changes in their medical condition or activities.

A target SpO2 of 92 percent to 96 percent is reasonable when considering that indirect data from patients without COVID-19 implies that a SpO2 of less than 92 percent or greater than 96 percent may be harmful to patients with only mild symptoms. 

Pulmonary Fibrosis

lung fibrosis CT scan and patient

Pulmonary fibrosis is a term used to describe a set of significant lung disorders that mostly affect the respiratory tract. Pulmonary fibrosis is characterized by scarring and thickening of lung tissue. Both the lung's connective tissue and the alveoli are affected by this condition (air sacs inside the lungs). 

Over time, the lung damage worsens gradually and steadily. Lung tissues that are rigid and stiff don't expand as effectively as they should, making it more difficult to breathe. When you perform ordinary chores that did not appear exhausting before, you may experience shortness of breath due to pulmonary fibrosis.

You may be more prone to develop pulmonary fibrosis if you have certain risk factors, such as smoking. However, even if you have one or more risk factors, it does not always follow that you will get the illness in the future.

Other variables that increase the likelihood of developing pulmonary fibrosis are as follows:

  • Older age 
  • Male biological sex
  • Smoking
  • Working around dust or fumes
  • Other medical conditions (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis or a viral infection) 
  • Other factors (e.g., radiation exposure for cancer treatment, chemotherapy, and certain heart medications)

Oxygen therapy is frequently prescribed for people suffering from pulmonary fibrosis. This treatment addresses low oxygen levels in the blood caused by lung scarring, which obstructs the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide throughout the body. Inhaling pure oxygen increases the concentration of oxygen in the lungs and raises the amounts of oxygen in the circulation.

You may need oxygen all day, or only at night or working out. You may also need oxygen when you sleep or when you work out. Each person with this disease has a different amount of oxygen they need based on how severe their disease is and how active they are. Your doctor will ask you to do a simple walking test to see if you need extra oxygen to help you breathe.

You will use handheld pulse oximeters to check your oxygen levels at home (available over the counter in many pharmacies). You will try to keep your oxygen saturation level above 90% all day and night.


woman coughing

Pneumonia is a lung infection that can range from mild to severe enough to need hospitalization. It occurs when an infection causes the air sacs in your lungs to fill with fluid or pus.  This medical condition can make breathing enough oxygen to reach your bloodstream difficult.

Anyone is vulnerable to contracting this lung infection. However, children under the age of two and individuals over the age of 65 are at a greater risk. This tendency for infection is because their immune systems may be insufficiently competent to combat it.

Pneumonia can affect one or both lungs. Additionally, you might have it and be unaware of it and pass it on to another person. Smoking cigarettes and consuming too much alcohol might also increase your risk of contracting pneumonia.

Supplemental oxygen can help weaker lungs function normally. The advantage of supplementary oxygen therapy as a treatment is that it may be performed at home without requiring further medical help.

Concentrators, which produce oxygen by removing it from the air, have the potential to make oxygen therapy a more long-term therapeutic option for patients with pneumonia. Oxygen concentrators are often less expensive than oxygen cylinders, which is an advantage for people seeking treatment for pneumonia.

Once you return home, your doctor will prescribe supplementary oxygen to help you recover from pneumonia, which will require the purchase of an oxygen concentrator. The doctor will prescribe a suggested flow setting so that you are always aware of how much oxygen to utilize. However, excessive oxygen may be dangerous, and patients risk overusing it. Following the doctor's suggested flow is the safest and most efficient approach to maintaining supplemental oxygen therapy.

Severe asthma attack 

woman having asthma attack

People with asthma have asthma attacks when muscles around their airways get tight. These attacks cause their asthma symptoms to worsen very quickly, causing bronchospasm. During an asthma attack, the walls of the airways become swollen or inflamed, and thicker mucus is produced.

Bronchospasm, inflammation, and mucus production cause the symptoms of an asthma attack, such as:

  • Breathing Difficulty
  • Wheezing 
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty doing normal daily tasks

Other symptoms of an asthma attack can include:

  • Severe wheezing when breathing both in and out
  • Coughing that won't stop
  • Very rapid breathing
  • Chest tightness or pressure
  • Tightened neck and chest muscles, called retractions
  • Difficulty talking
  • Feelings of anxiety or panic
  • Pale, sweaty face
  • Blue lips or fingernails
  • Worsening symptoms despite the use of your medications

Asthma attacks can cause respiratory failure, known as status asthmaticus, the most severe type of severe acute asthma. Status asthmaticus can occur if an attack occurs fast and does not respond to usual treatment. If this occurs, you may need to seek medical attention in the hospital. 

Administering pure oxygen to people who are very ill with asthma can cause them to have trouble breathing and keep carbon dioxide in their bodies, especially if their airways are significantly blocked.  Low oxygen levels in the arteries, caused by ventilation and blood flow problems, can be quickly fixed by giving moderate doses of inspired oxygen.

With acute asthma, oxygen treatment aims to reach at least 92 percent blood oxygen saturation. However, if feasible, the emergency oxygen recommendation recommends a range of 94–98 percent oxygen saturation in all conditions.

Sleep Apnea

old man with sleep apnea lying on bed wearing CPAP

Sleep apnea is a potentially dangerous sleeping problem in which the patient's breathing regularly stops and begins during sleep. If you snore loudly and wake up feeling fatigued even after a full night's sleep, you may be suffering from this medical condition.

The following are the most common kinds of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea is a more prevalent kind of sleep apnea, which happens when the muscles in the throat relax during sleep.
  • Central sleep apnea: Condition in which your brain fails to deliver correct signals to the muscles that control your breathing while you sleep.
  • Complex sleep apnea syndrome: Also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, is a condition in which a person has both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea at the same time.

People who suffer from sleep apnea are more likely to experience:

  • Snore much louder than those with regular snoring
  • Pause while they breathe (for over 10 seconds)
  • Take shallow breaths, gasp, or choke
  • Experience restlessness

One way to treat sleep apnea is to give your body oxygen at night. In theory, nocturnal oxygen therapy should improve oxygenation and relieve tissue hypoxia. However, the results have been mixed, and in some cases, oxygen can be bad for your health.

Patients with sleep apnea should be provided with oxygen during the night, which appears to be a reasonable concept on the surface. As a result of repeated pauses in breathing throughout the night, the administered oxygen has the potential to stabilize oxygen levels and reduce the risk of future medical issues associated with sleep apnea.

However, the reality is not so accurate. The impact of oxygen therapy on the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) is insignificant. Although the blood oxygen levels do increase, the major symptom, severe tiredness during the daytime, does not improve.

Furthermore, supplementary oxygen does not address the extremely high and potentially deadly amounts of excess carbon dioxide accumulated throughout the nighttime.

Safety Considerations When Using a Portable Oxygen Concentrator:

Doctor writing on prescription form

Only use portable oxygen concentrators if a healthcare provider has prescribed it

The Food and Drug Administration recommends against using an oxygen concentrator at home unless your doctor has specifically prescribed it. It is possible to have an excess or a shortage of oxygen.

Using an oxygen concentrator without a prescription can result in serious health concerns such as oxygen toxicity caused by obtaining an excessive amount of oxygen. Additionally, it may result in a delay in the treatment of potentially life-threatening disorders.

Don’t use a portable oxygen concentrator near an open flame

Although oxygen does not burn as it is not flammable, it has the property of being an oxidizer. It means that the oxygen requires fire to function. It is hazardous to use it near a burning object because it will accelerate the rate at which the fire burns. Oxygen is classified as a non-combustible gas, but fire safety should be observed and practiced.

You must adhere to the following oxygen safety precautions to the letter:

  • Never smoke, and don't allow anybody else to do so in your area.
  • Keep a safe distance between yourself and open flames, such as those from cigarettes, lighters, and matches.
  • Avoid using combustible cleaning fluids, paint thinners, and aerosol sprays for cleaning.
  • Maintain a safe 5-foot space between yourself and heat sources. Candles, gas stoves, lit fireplaces, and electric or gas heaters are strictly forbidden near the oxygen concentrator.

Maintain your oxygen flow rate at its prescribed level

It is up to your doctor to determine the right flow rates for you. Increased flow rates are rarely beneficial and can increase the risk of toxic carbon dioxide accumulation in the circulation, damaging the patient.

Monitor for and prevent signs of overheating 

It is important to operate and store it in areas with moderate temperatures to avoid damage to your concentrator. Never allow it to grow too chilly, and never allow it to become too heated either.

It is important to keep the device out of direct sunlight to keep the gadget's temperature from increasing. Last but not least, never leave your portable oxygen concentrator in a heated vehicle! Excessive heat can cause internal machinery to fail, leading to a fire.

Make sure your oxygen concentrator does not become wet.

Maintain a safe distance between your oxygen concentrators and water sources to protect the safety of your machinery and electronic equipment. To keep the POC out of the tub or shower, you may consider getting a long cannula.

If you're taking a shower or bath, turn on the bathroom fan to help expel any extra moisture and steam from the room. If the surrounding air is very humid, your concentrator may be harmed.

Do not use damaged cables.

If the oxygen concentrator's cable looks broken, it is not recommended that you use it. It should not be connected to an extension cable or plugged into an outlet already being used by other appliances.

FAQs About Using Portable Oxygen Concentrators

What happens if you use an oxygen concentrator and don't need it?

Before purchasing or using an oxygen concentrator, you must obtain approval from your physician. Using one without consulting them or obtaining a prescription can be risky. You may get insufficient or excessive oxygen, resulting in oxygen toxicity. 

Oxygen toxicity (aka oxygen poisoning) is lung injury caused by inhaling an excessive amount of additional (supplemental) oxygen. It may result in coughing and difficulty breathing. It can potentially be fatal in extreme circumstances.

If your doctor believes a concentrator is appropriate for you, they will advise you on the amount of oxygen to consume and how long to use the device. 

Why would someone need a portable oxygen concentrator?

A portable oxygen concentrator is designed for persons who have breathing difficulties or lung disorders due to low oxygen levels in their blood. Asthma, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), influenza, and COVID-19 are just a few health problems that can result in decreased oxygen levels. When the levels fall too low, we may require more oxygen, referred to as oxygen treatment.

Can a healthy person use an oxygen concentrator?

No! For most people, a typical pulse oximeter result indicates an oxygen saturation level of between 95% and 100%. Oxygen therapy is typically unnecessary unless the SpO2 level is less than 92 percent. Do not administer oxygen if the SpO2 level is less than 92 percent, especially if you do not have a doctor's prescription. 

Can you get too much oxygen from a concentrator?

Yes. Blood oxygen levels should be between 95 and 100 percent in a healthy person. When that amount rises beyond that level, you're getting too much oxygen into your system, leading to oxygen poisoning with symptoms of coughing, difficulty breathing, or possibly lung damage.

Purchase the Best Cost-Effective Portable Oxygen Concentrators at Sprylyfe

You can find medical-grade home oxygen concentrators and portable oxygen concentrators for sale at Sprylyfe. You can shop online for all of your supplies, including portable concentrator accessories and refurbished units.

Contact our knowledgeable oxygen specialists to find out which oxygen concentrator is best for your needs. Give us a call at (800) 314-8225.

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