How to use Home Oxygen for Infants
When a medical condition keeps your baby from getting enough oxygen, a health care provider may instruct you to give your baby extra oxygen at home. The health care provider will tell you:
- When to give oxygen.
- For how long to give oxygen.
- How quickly oxygen should be delivered (flow rate), in liters per minute (LPM or L/M).
Home oxygen can be given through:
- A mask.
- A nasal cannula. This is a device or tube that goes in the nostrils.
- A transtracheal catheter. This is a small, flexible tube placed in the trachea.
- A tracheostomy. This is a surgically made opening in the trachea.
These devices are connected with tubing to an oxygen source, such as:
- A tank. Tanks hold oxygen in gas form.
- A liquid oxygen device. This holds oxygen in liquid form.
- An oxygen concentrator machine. This filters oxygen in the room. It uses electricity, so you must have a backup cylinder of oxygen in case the power goes out.
To give your baby oxygen you will need:
- A mask, nasal cannula, transtracheal catheter, or tracheostomy.
- An oxygen tank, a liquid oxygen device, or an oxygen concentrator.
- The tape that your health care provider recommends (optional).
Depending on the delivery device and the amount of oxygen that your child needs, you may also need a humidifier.
Risks and complications
- Fire. This can happen if the oxygen is exposed to a heat source, flame, or spark.
- Injury to skin. This can happen if liquid oxygen touches the skin.
- Damage to the lungs or other organs. This can happen from getting too little oxygen.
How to use oxygen
Your child’s health care provider will show you how to use the oxygen device and how to give oxygen. Follow her or his instructions. They may look something like this:
- Wash your hands before touching your baby.
- If you use an oxygen concentrator, make sure it is plugged in.
- Place one end of the tube into the port on the tank, device, or machine.
- Get comfortable with your baby.
- Place the mask over your baby’s nose and mouth. Or, place the nasal cannula and secure it with tape if instructed. If you use a tracheostomy or transtracheal catheter, connect it to the oxygen source as directed. You may need another person to help you keep your baby’s hands from grabbing the tubing. You may also try giving your baby a toy to play with while you secure the mask or cannula.
- Make sure the liter-flow setting on the machine is at the level prescribed by the health care provider.
- Turn on the machine or adjust the knob on the tank or device to the correct liter-flow setting.
- When you are done, turn off and unplug the machine, or turn the knob to OFF.
How to clean and care for the oxygen supplies
- Clean it with a warm, wet cloth daily or as needed.
- Wash it with a liquid soap.
- Rinse it thoroughly once or twice a week.
- Replace it every 2–4 weeks.
- If your child has a cold, change the cannula when your child gets better.
- Replace it every 2–4 weeks.
- If your child has a cold, change the mask when your child gets better.
- Wash the bottle between each refill:
- Wash it with soap and warm water.
- Rinse it thoroughly.
- Disinfect it and its top.
- Air dry it.
- Make sure it is dry before you refill it.
- Clean the air filter at least twice a week according to directions from your home medical equipment and service company.
- Wipe down the cabinet every day. To do this:
- Unplug the unit.
- Wipe down the cabinet with a damp cloth.
- Dry the cabinet.
- Change any extra tubing every 1–3 months.
- Follow instructions from your child’s health care provider about taking care of any other equipment.
Fire safety tips
- Keep your child’s oxygen and oxygen supplies at least 5 ft away from sources of heat, flames, and sparks at all times.
- Do not allow smoking near your child’s oxygen. Put up “no smoking” signs in your home.
- Do not use materials that can burn (are flammable) while you use oxygen.
- Keep a fire extinguisher close by. Let your fire department know that you have oxygen in your home.
- Test your home smoke detectors regularly.
General safety tips
- If you use an oxygen cylinder, make sure it is in a stand or secured to an object that will not move (fixed object).
- If you use liquid oxygen, make sure its container is kept upright.
- If you use an oxygen concentrator:
- Tell your electric company. Make sure you are given priority service in the event that your power goes out.
- Avoid using extension cords.
Follow these instructions at home:
- Give oxygen only as told by the health care provider.
- Know how and when to order a refill of oxygen.
- Always keep a spare tank of oxygen. Plan ahead for holidays when you may not be able to get a prescription filled.
- Use water-based lubricants on your child’s lips or nostrils. Do not use oil-based products like petroleum jelly.
- To prevent skin irritation on your child’s cheeks or behind your child’s ears, tuck some gauze under the tubing.
Contact a health care provider if:
- Your baby has dry, irritated skin.
- Your baby has nosebleeds.
- Your baby is not eating or sleeping well.
- Your baby is irritable.
- Your baby seems more tired than normal and lacks energy.
- Your baby is limp or weak.
Get help right away if:
- Your baby’s breathing is faster than normal.
- Your baby is struggling to breathe.
- Your baby’s nostrils flare.
- Your baby is belly breathing.
- Your baby’s skin looks gray or bluish around the lips, gums, or eyes.
- Your baby is short of breath.
- While breathing, your baby:
- Makes wheezing noises.
- Makes grunting noises.
- Pulls in at the chest and squirms.