Can You Drive With A Portable Oxygen Concentrator?

Can You Drive With A Portable Oxygen Concentrator?

Looking for an accurate answer to "Can you drive with a portable oxygen concentrator?"? We provided all the necessary information in this post, so read through.

Driving with a portable oxygen concentrator is very easy if you know how to do it. Driving is not a problem, so we will be giving you a few guidelines and tips to keep you safe.

Before we move on to the safety tips and guidelines, let us dive deeper into this post’s  highlights.

Can You Drive With a Portable Oxygen Concentrator?

The quick answer to this query is “yes”. You can drive with a portable oxygen concentrator as long as it is FAA-approved and you are following the necessary state laws regarding the device’s usage.

Suffering from lung diseases may require you to have oxygen tanks beside you most of the time. However, we all know that they are very heavy to carry and may cause inconvenience in your most anticipated travel plans.

In this scenario, you can have a portable oxygen concentrator (POC) with you instead. Your road trips with your family and friends will be even more exciting!

Driving with a portable oxygen concentrator won't have to be different from going without it. We have listed a few guidelines and safety tips in the later sections to make it possible.

7 Guidelines For Using a Portable Oxygen Concentrator When Driving

Although not entirely different, driving with portable oxygen concentrators comes with specific guidelines. Other than making sure your health conditions allow you, here are other things you should know before you drive with a concentrator.

1. Know your state laws

Generally, no laws govern driving with a portable O2 concentrator. However, if traffic authorities question you on the road, you can explain how your concentrator functions and why you must use it. 

If you are to travel out of your state, familiarizing yourself with the laws of the area you are going to is essential. Your state may give you the freedom, but others may not. You wouldn't want to get caught in the middle of your road trip, would you?

Read more: State Laws About Driving With Oxygen in the US

2. Use a portable oxygen concentrator that is FAA-approved

When traveling, it is best to use a portable oxygen concentrator approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). By FAA-approved, it means that the concentrator is permitted onboard an aircraft.

Some of the allowed portable oxygen concentrators for inflight use include the Sequal Eclipse, Inogen One G3, G4, and G5, Respironics EverGo, AirSep focus, and more. To be sure, check with your airline before bringing your POC with you.

FAA Criteria for using portable oxygen concentrators

Here are the criteria established for portable oxygen concentrators set by the FAA.

  • The POC shall be legally marketed in the United States under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements.
  • The POC shall not radiate radio frequency emissions that interfere with aircraft systems.
  • The POC shall not generate a compressed gas.
  • The POC shall not contain any hazardous materials, except those for battery uses to power PEDs, which do not require approval from the aircraft operator, as the case for larger batteries.
  • The POC shall have the required labeling.

3. Keep the device out of direct sunlight

If you have a portable oxygen concentrator in your car, avoid placing it in direct sunlight areas. The heat will cause the conditions to act up, but it may also cause your concentrator to overheat and shut down.

In case your POC overheats and malfunctions, here are some things you can try to solve the issue.

  • Unplug your concentrator.
  • Remove the battery pack and leave it for half an hour.
  • After 30 minutes, plug it back, try to turn it on, and put back the battery pack after 10 minutes.
  • Check all vents and the cannula, making sure they are not obstructed.
  • Inspect if your battery is loose or replace it with a spare.
  • Check for any physical damage to the battery or system.
  • Research for any error instruction in your device manual and take note of the error code and frequency of the experienced issue.

Contact the equipment provider and ask for assistance if these don't work. The error code will help them quickly identify the origin of the issue and how to fix it.

4. Do not leave your portable oxygen concentrator in the car

Do not leave your concentrator in your car, especially if you will be out for a long time. The heat it produces can create permanent damage to your vehicle.

Bring it along with you, or look for a cool, dry place to leave it for some time. The hassle of holding it and the effort of finding temporary storage are much better than damaging your car.

5. Keep your distance from fire and smoke

Smoke and fire pose a significant hazard to oxygen. On that note, you must keep them away from each other.

Maintain at least a safe distance of two meters between the source of fire and your portable oxygen concentrator. These include cigarettes or a bonfire you are using to roast some sweet marshmallows. 

6. Learn how to maintain a portable oxygen concentrator just in case a problem occurs

Problems usually arise in the most unexpected moments, so preparing is always better. Here are some of the tips you have to remember when it comes to maintaining your portable oxygen concentrator.

  • The simplest and most effective way to maintain your portable oxygen concentrator is to handle it with utmost care. Of course, POCs are sturdy and solid, but it always helps to keep them away from any harm as much as possible.
  • When traveling, it is a good idea to purchase an accessory bag for your portable oxygen concentrator. This cheap buy may save you a lot of money later on.
  • Portable oxygen concentrators are meant for traveling. Nonetheless, it is still very beneficial to store them properly whether you are using them or not. 

As you place it inside your car, make sure that you know where you are putting it and what kind of storage you are using when your concentrator is not in use. 

  • Make sure to check every connection between the tubes and the oxygen supply to see if there is leaking.
  • Ensure that your POC's battery is making contact when changing it out.
  • Inspect the charging cords to ensure they are connected correctly. 
  • Make sure the oxygen is flowing freely.
  • If your POC comes with a gross particle filter. You should clean this filter regularly and replace it periodically.
  • Check the air filters on your concentrator, clean them regularly, and replace them after some time, depending on the model. Most filters need replacement once every two years or when necessary. 
  • Never turn your portable oxygen concentrator on until it is completely dry.
  • Ensure that your POC is switched off and unplugged when not in use.
  • Give the air inlets close attention when cleaning your concentrator.
  • Clean your cannula at least once a week. Wash it with warm, soapy water.

You can also rinse it in a cup of water and 1 ounce of vinegar. Then, rinse again using hot water and thoroughly dry for at least 30 minutes. 

  • Aside from cleaning your portable oxygen concentrator and changing the air inlet filters, it should also be serviced by a professional care team once a year. The maintenance technician must verify the oxygen purity, flow pressure and rate, check the bacteria filter, and change the inlet compressor.

Failure to properly maintain your portable oxygen concentrator can cause errors and malfunctions. It will also reduce the durability of your device. 

7. Bring a charging cord with you

Trips may take some time, so it is always better to bring a charging cord. Some portable oxygen concentrators have AC/DC power options that allow you to charge them in your car using the same cable you use for your phone.

You can plug your portable oxygen concentrator in your car's "cigarette lighter" or in a D.C. power outlet to charge your portable oxygen concentrator. You can use your concentrator while charging without running out of your unit's batteries.

As much as possible, leave your POC plugged in while you travel. Doing this will allow you to use a fully charged device once you reach your destination and have to leave the car.

5 Safety Tips When Using a Portable Oxygen Concentrator When Driving

Aside from having your complete focus on the road, there are other things you have to take note of for safe driving. Portable oxygen concentrators need extra care, especially when driving.

1. Consider the weather

Although driving in most seasons (sunny days, rainy seasons) can be pretty standard, driving in winter can be very dangerous, especially during heavy snowing.

Winter driving requires extreme caution, not only for those carrying portable oxygen concentrators with them as they travel. It is highly recommended that you prepare an emergency kit for your car if it gets stuck or breaks down in the middle of your drive through the snow.

Here are some safety tips for winter driving:

  • Make sure that your tank is at least half full or 3/4 full to prevent the fuel from freezing.
  • When driving under slick conditions or poor visibility, it is recommended that you keep at least a 3-car length distance between you and the car after you.
  • Clean any snow out of your hood, as it can fly to the windshield and block your view as you drive.
  • Ensure your windows are free of any ice, both the back and front windshields and the side windows, for a clear view of the side mirrors.
  • Inform your family and friends that you are traveling and where you are heading, so someone will know if you fail to reach your destination.
  • Be extra careful with bridges and other areas that can be slick when driving.
  • Have a weather check before you leave, as conditions change quickly, and driving can be more dangerous.

Also, here is a list of the things you will need to prepare when driving with a portable oxygen concentrator during winter.

  • Water
  • Non-perishable food
  • Blankets
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Boots
  • Hand warmers
  • Medications
  • POC charger
  • Phone charger
  • First aid kit
  • Emergency flares
  • Battery-powered radio (with extra batteries)
  • Ice Scraper
  • Jumper Cables
  • Sand/Cat litter (for traction)

2. Have extra batteries

It is essential to bring spare batteries with you whenever you travel. You may not be able to get the supplemental oxygen that you need if your concentrator's battery dies. 

You may end up having a medical emergency and lose consciousness. In such a situation, you are very prone to road accidents. 

3. Stay alert and awake while driving

Before sitting behind your car wheel with your portable oxygen concentrator, get enough rest and sleep. Sleeping while driving is very dangerous and may lead to severe accidents.

You should also avoid distracting yourself with your phone and other stuff. If you are to take an emergency call, pull over to the side of the road.

Also, it is crucial to stay calm as you drive. Problems on the road may happen, but remember that letting your emotions control you will not do any good.

4. If someone is sitting in the passenger seat, put the concentrator on the floor

When driving, it is best to position your portable oxygen concentrator beside you and buckle it up to prevent it from flying elsewhere. However, if someone is occupying the seat, place your concentrator on the floor, near the passenger's feet, so the cannula can still reach your nose.

As much as possible, avoid putting your concentrator behind you. In case it malfunctions, it can be very dangerous for you to try and reach it.

5. Know if you are qualified to drive with a portable oxygen concentrator

Before driving and bringing your concentrator with you, consult your doctor first. Some health conditions may disqualify you from driving with a POC.

In most cases, getting your hands on the car wheel with oxygen therapy is not recommended. It is due to a few concerns like device malfunction and the risk of overheating and explosion.

Pulmonary hypertension is a significant underlying disease that can disqualify you from driving. To be able to drive, you must pass the Pulmonary Function Test (PFT).

can you drive with a portable oxygen concentrator infographic by Sprylyfe

FAQs About Using Portable Oxygen Concentrators

Will my portable oxygen concentrator overheat if it is buckled tight against the car seat?

No. When a portable oxygen concentrator overheats, it is more likely because of malfunction or it is not functioning at its optimal level. Buckling it tightly in your car seat will not cause it to overheat unless it is under extreme temperature due to direct sunlight.

Do not panic if your concentrator heats up since it is normal for most POCs, especially if it is running for several hours. 

Should batteries be removed when running a portable oxygen concentrator in a vehicle, so as not to exhaust their charge cycles too quickly?

No. Some models of portable oxygen concentrators can operate while plugged into an external power supply, like your car, and charge the battery simultaneously. One good example is the Inogen One concentrator.

Most portable oxygen concentrators can run for four to five hours with a single battery charge. Smaller and lighter units generally tend to have shorter battery charge spans.

Where should I put the extra batteries of my portable oxygen concentrators when I'm driving?

There is no specific area where you have to put the extra batteries of your portable oxygen concentrator when driving. The most important thing you have to remember is to avoid placing them in areas with extreme hot or cold temperatures. 

Avoid areas with direct sunlight and places that are prone to moisture build-up. Water and batteries are not exactly a good combination. 

Proceed With Your Travel Plans The Right Way With A Portable Oxygen Concentrator

Going on road trips is undoubtedly fun and exciting. However, unfortunate circumstances (like catching respiratory diseases) may occur, and you may think that traveling will never be the same again.

Good thing there are portable oxygen concentrators for sale that will allow you to travel and even get yourself behind the wheel despite your health condition. Living your life to the fullest as you go on amazing trips is still possible.

Now that you have your answer on "can you drive with a portable oxygen concentrator", you can explore your options on the best travel and health companion.

Shop our collection of the best portable oxygen concentrators at an affordable price, or call one of our respiratory specialists at (800) 314-8225 to assist your purchase.
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Patricia Elaine Mattingly - October 27, 2022

Appreciate the information and the way it was written.

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