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How to Safely Use Medical Oxygen With a Wheelchair
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How to Safely Use Medical Oxygen With a Wheelchair

If you have a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or cystic fibrosis, you likely undergo some form of oxygen therapy which helps you seek relief from your respiratory symptoms. But if you’re also disabled, either due to your lung condition or a coexisting condition, you need to be able to transport your oxygen therapy device safely and without hassle.

There are many potential risks of taking an oxygen device with you wherever you go. First and foremost, oxygen tanks are highly flammable. Our atmosphere is only about 21 percent oxygen, but the oxygen inside an oxygen compressor is 99.5 percent oxygen. As you’re likely aware, fire needs oxygen in order to spread, so a leaky oxygen tank is a huge fire hazard.

Oxygen tanks are also very bulky and heavy, so if they’re not secured properly, they could cause harm to anyone nearby, including yourself. Before you get out and about, it’s important to ensure that issues like these are taken care of so that you can limit your chance of injury as much as possible. Follow the tips below to learn more.


Consider an Oxygen Concentrator

While we certainly don’t mean to scare you by talking about how flammable oxygen tanks are, we also don’t want to hide the facts from you. Oxygen tanks have been around a while, but they’re not without their faults. Fortunately, there’s a much better solution out there — oxygen concentrators.

The thing about oxygen concentrators is that they don’t store any oxygen. Instead, these machines take in ambient air and remove the nitrogen, then the pure oxygen is delivered directly into your nasal cannula. Assuming your cannula is in good condition, you’ll never have to worry about an oxygen leak.

Another benefit of oxygen concentrators is that they tend to be much lighter than oxygen tanks. When you’re traveling, saving even just a few pounds can go a long way, especially if you have other personal belongings that you need to carry with you. Since portable oxygen concentrators are smaller than tanks, you may find that they’re easier to carry and store as well.


Find the Right Wheelchair

Finding the right wheelchair is equally as important as finding the right oxygen therapy device. If your wheelchair is old and not equipped to hold personal belongings, you may find that transporting an oxygen tank is harder than you originally thought. Oftentimes, you can purchase a wheelchair with an oxygen tank holder built-in, or you can purchase an accessory to attach to it.

Ensure Cannulas Are Secure

Cannulas are the tubes that carry the oxygen supply from the oxygen tank (or oxygen concentrator) to your nose so that you can inhale it. Unfortunately, many manufacturers make ones that are too long making them a hassle to deal with. If you do have long cannulas, make sure they’re organized and don’t get tangled up. If it’s dangling off the side of the wheelchair it could get caught on the wheel or something else and cause injury.


Always Plan Ahead

Above all else, you need to make sure you plan ahead before you go out the door. It’s not too hard to prevent injury while using an oxygen therapy device on your wheelchair, but if you’re in a hurry you could make a mistake.

The general rule of thumb is to take at least one and a half times as much oxygen as your trip will last. So, for example, if you’re going to the grocery store and you think it will take an hour, take at least an hour and a half worth of oxygen. If you have an oxygen tank, you may need to refill it before going out and if you use an oxygen concentrator, you should fully charge your batteries to ensure you have oxygen for the whole trip.


Before you go out the door, make sure everything is secure. It’s better to take the time now to ensure that all your belongings are in place than to have to worry about it once you’re already out and about. This is especially important when it comes to the oxygen device itself because if it’s dropped or comes loose, it could get permanently damaged.



Bringing an oxygen device with you while you’re using a wheelchair can be a pleasant experience, but you need to make sure you take the necessary precautions first. Try the tips above to get you started, and if you run into any issues, be sure to ask for help from a friend or loved one. 

Image credit: Steven HWG

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