What Are Oxygen Therapy Side Effects?

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Oxygen therapy can cause dry or bloody nose, skin irritation from the nasal cannula or face mask, fatigue and morning headaches. It may also suppress the drive to breathe, says the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

To alleviate some of these conditions, oxygen flow rates or the length of oxygen use may be changed. Nasal sprays or humidifiers can help to relieve a dry or bloody nose, claims the NHLBI. Irritation caused by the nasal cannula or face mask can be fixed by switching the devices to a better fitting model. Over-the-counter gels can also be used to lessen the irritation. If problems persist, a doctor and home equipment provider should be contacted.

Side effects from transtracheal oxygen therapy may be more serious. Mucus balls can develop on the tube inside the windpipe and cause coughing or clogging of the pipe. Injuries to the lining of the windpipe and infection may also occur, according to the NHLBI.

Patients beginning oxygen therapy should take caution as oxygen poses a fire risk, says the NHLBI. The oxygen tank should be kept away from heat and stored in a airy room, never a small, enclosed place like a closet.

Oxygen therapy is recommended for patients with low blood oxygen levels, claims the NHLBI. Short-term therapy may be required by patients suffering from severe pneumonia, severe asthma or respiratory distress syndrome. Long-term home therapy can be used to treat COPD, late-stage heart failure, cystic fibrosis and disorders related to sleep.