Oxygen therapy

Life with oxygen therapy

If you are receiving oxygen therapy, it's important not to smoke, to inform your insurers and to be prepared when going on holiday.

Using oxygen safely

To avoid fire risks, use your oxygen equipment according to the manufacturer’s safety instructions. For example, you should not use oxygen while cooking with gas. Some hand creams and alcohol gels are not suitable for use alongside oxygen, since they may be flammable. 

No one should smoke near oxygen or use oxygen near a naked flame of any sort. E-cigarettes can also be a fire risk.

The local fire service may offer specific advice about your home.

Most oxygen tubing has a fire break at the end of the tubing near your face that will stop oxygen in the event of a fire.

If you have difficulty with mobility or reduced sight, take care with oxygen tubing – if you are concerned about trips and falls, the community occupational therapist may be able to assess your home and offer ways to help. Your GP or local health care team can arrange this assessment.

Remember that oxygen is a medicine – too much oxygen can be dangerous. It is dangerous for you to alter the oxygen flow rate your equipment provides or change the type of mask you use, unless instructed to do so by your health care professional. It has been prescribed for you after a very careful assessment.

Tip

Pay attention to the oxygen tubing when getting in and out of the car

Smoking and oxygen

You should never smoke, including e-cigarettes, when using oxygen. The carbon monoxide in the smoke reduces the amount of oxygen that your bloodcancarry around your body. This makes the oxygen therapy ineffective. Oxygen also helps combustion, so it is vital that there is no smoking around oxygen. There is a risk of facial burns and house fires if you or someone else smokes in your home when the oxygen supply is turned on.

If you continue to smoke while using oxygen, a risk assessment and a medical review will be undertaken. It might be appropriate to withhold or withdraw oxygen therapy because of public safety or risk to others.

Ask your respiratory team for advice on how to quit, or read our advice for help to quit.

You will not get any long-term benefit from oxygen if you continue to smoke or if you do not use the oxygen as prescribed.

Home and car insurance

If you use oxygen, it’s important to tell your insurers. This should not affect insurance premiums, but it will make sure you are fully covered in the event of a claim. It’s a good idea to inform both buildings and contents insurance providers.

You should also inform your car insurance provider. But there is no need to notify the DVLA unless you experience giddiness, faint or lose consciousness.

Holidaying with oxygen

Before you book a holiday, discuss your health needs with your respiratory specialist or GP. If you are flying, you may need a fitness to fly test to confirm your need for in-flight oxygen. If you need oxygen while flying you will need to arrange this with your airline. You will also need to ensure that you have oxygen at your destination. We have advice and tips on how to travel with oxygen in our information on holidaying with a lung condition.

Download our oxygen therapy PDF (299KB) Order your free oxygen therapy booklet >

Last medically reviewed: February 2018. Due for review: February 2021

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.