Oxygen Therapy for Heart Failure: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

When you have heart failure, your heart does not pump as well as it should. So it does not send enough oxygen-rich blood to the rest of your body. Oxygen therapy increases the amount of oxygen sent to your body's tissues. This helps reduce your heart's workload. It can help you breathe easier and let you do more.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

To help yourself

  • Using oxygen may dry out your nose or lips. Use water-based lubricants on your lips or nostrils. Do not use an oil-based product like petroleum jelly.
  • If you use a nasal cannula, the tubing may rub under your nostrils and around your ears. To keep your skin from getting sore, tuck some gauze under the tubing. Use a water-based lotion on rubbed areas.
  • Do not use alcohol or take drugs that relax you, because they will slow your breathing rate.
  • Keep track of how much oxygen is in the tank, and reorder before it runs out. If a holiday is coming up or you expect bad weather, order in advance or make your regular order larger.
  • You may need extra oxygen when you travel to high altitudes or travel by plane. Ask your doctor about this.
  • If you are getting oxygen directly to your windpipe through an opening in your neck, your doctor will teach you how to care for the equipment.

Check your airflow if you think you are not getting oxygen

  • Check the flow by holding your mask or cannula up to your ear and listening for the "hiss" of airflow.
  • If you have a nasal cannula, dip the prongs in a glass of water. If you see bubbles, oxygen is coming through.
  • Check your pressure gauge or contents indicator.
  • If you use an oxygen concentrator, make sure it is turned on and plugged in. If you use a cylinder, make sure the valve is open.
  • Look for kinks, blockages, or water in the tubing. Be sure the tubing is connected to the oxygen source.
  • Do not change your oxygen flow rate. Your doctor sets this at the correct level. Higher flow rates usually do not help and can increase the risk of harmful carbon dioxide buildup in the blood.

To be safe

  • Do not leave cords or tubing running across an area where you or someone else may trip on it.
  • Do not let oxygen containers get hot. Store them in a cool place where there is airflow. Do not leave them in a car trunk or a hot vehicle.
  • Keep oxygen containers upright. Make sure they do not fall over and get damaged.
  • Watch for signs of oxygen leaks. If you hear a loud hissing from your container or if it empties too fast, stay away from the container. Open windows. Call the company that brought the oxygen system to your home right away.
  • Do not use oxygen around anything that could spark or easily cause a fire.
    • Do not smoke or let others smoke while you are using oxygen. Put up "No smoking" signs in your home.
    • Do not use oxygen near open flames, such as candles, fireplaces, gas stoves, or hot water heaters. Do not use it near electric razors, hair dryers, heating pads, or anything that may spark.
    • Keep a working fire extinguisher in your home that is easy to get to.
    • If a fire starts, turn off the oxygen right away and leave the house.
    • If you have an oxygen concentrator, do not use it if the cord looks damaged. Do not use an extension cord to plug it in. Do not plug it into an outlet that has other appliances plugged into it.

To care for the equipment

  • Follow the directions that come with the equipment for using and caring for it.
  • Wash your cannula or mask with a liquid soap and warm water 1 or 2 times a week. Replace them every 2 to 4 weeks.
  • If you have a cold, change the nasal prongs when your cold symptoms are done.
  • If you have an oxygen concentrator, unplug the unit and wipe down the cabinet with a damp cloth daily. Clean the air filter at least 2 times a week.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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