Hazards of oxygen therapy include oxygen toxicity and carbon dioxide retention, notes the American Thoracic Society. There are also physical hazards of oxygen therapy such as risk of fires, explosions and freeze burns.
Patients who receive an inspiratory oxygen fraction of more than 50 percent for long periods may develop oxygen toxicity, according to the American Thoracic Society. This is because some oxygen molecules are converted to highly reactive free radicals instead of water. Oxygen toxicity may cause pathophysiological changes such as decreased diffusing capacity, reduced inspiratory airflow and decreased lung compliance.
Oxygen therapy may cause carbon dioxide retention, or permissive hypercapnia, though this is rare, the American Thoracic Society explains. In infants, oxygen therapy may lead to overgrowth of blood vessels in the eye and cause blindness, reports News-Medical.net.
Oxygen poses a fire or explosion risk, reports the American Thoracic Society. Patients and their caregivers are warned not to smoke near the oxygen cylinder. A small fire in the presence of oxygen can become bigger, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
The oxygen cylinder may also explode if exposed to heat, states the National, Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, so compressed oxygen cylinders should not be stored close to water heaters or furnaces, the American Thoracic Society advises. Liquid oxygen may cause a serious freeze burn if the patient does not take proper care when transfilling it.