Everything you need to know about travelling with Oxygen
BY Rafael Mendonca, RRT Manager
Sep 16, 2021
Are you ready to travel again?
What is Oxygen Therapy?
We breathe oxygen on a daily basis. Believe it or not, supplemental oxygen is a drug that needs to be prescribed by a physician and/or your healthcare provider. It is critical to ensure a properly trained healthcare professional is assisting with your therapy as oxygen can lead to oxygen toxicity and can cause irreversible pulmonary damage if administered incorrectly. Supplemental Oxygen is defined as extra oxygen to enrich the air with a higher fraction of oxygen in the air we breathe in. The air we breathe on a daily basis contains 20% oxygen, 79% Nitrogen and <1% trace gases. When an individual requires extra oxygen to maintain their saturation at normal levels, to reduce shortness of breath or to alleviate pulmonary hypertension it is called supplemental or prescribed oxygen therapy. Therefore, an individual should only use Oxygen therapy under the guidance of a Doctor or Nurse Practitioner and ensure you have a knowledgeable Registered Respiratory Therapist assisting in your care through a local home care services provider. Click here for a respected & knowledgeable local oxygen service provider in Ottawa, Ontario!
Oxygen Tank Vs. Oxygen Concentrators, which one is better?
The better question is, "which one is right for me?". Throughout the years, we have gotten this question ample amounts of times. Truth is, it depends. Lets dig a bit deeper...
First lets look at the history of oxygen tanks and concentrators. Having the first oxygen tanks around since the 1800s and evolved to what they are now, it is a no brainer on how much technology has been pumped into the oxygen therapy sector. Now-a-days you have access to old fashioned oxygen tanks, Stationary Concentrators for home use and also the newest technologies of portable oxygen concentrators with batteries that can last up to 10 hours!
On one hand Oxygen Tanks do not require electricity and on the other Stationary Concentrators run on electricity. In the event of a power outage, anyone that just has a home oxygen concentrator without a back up tank or portable concentrator will not have access to their oxygen therapy unless powered by a back up generator. Additionally, certain healthcare providers offer installation services of large T or K sized- oxygen tanks at home and are able to act as an emergent back-up supply of supplemental oxygen for a much longer period of time vs. a portable concentrator in the event of a power outage.
Did you know Oxygen Concentrators create their own oxygen whilst Oxygen Tanks need to be refilled? Yes, that is right. Concentrators make their own oxygen! No more refills, no more waiting for oxygen deliveries, staying home due to depletion of oxygen or unexpected delays in oxygen tank deliveries! Definitely something to consider as it can be weeks for a delivery depending on the situation. Be worry-free with a Stationary Concentrator by doing the regular maintenance which usually only includes: Cleaning the air filter monthly, replacing the HEPA filter once per year and replacing the nasal cannulas and oxygen tubing on a monthly or as needed basis.
Furthermore, Airlines are growing weary of pressurized oxygen tanks. Therefore many will not accept pressurized tanks unless specifically requested by a medical doctor with significant evidence of hypoxemiarequiring high-flow oxygen therapy. In these cases,portable oxygen concentrators (POC) such as the OxyGo NEXT (Inogen 5) or OxyGo G3 (Inogen 3) would be the #1 choice for ease of travelling with oxygen therapy. The key here is to ensure that the device meets the criteria for your travelling needs. For Example, majority of airlines require the portable concentrators to have 1.5x battery charge than the anticipated travel time. This can be looked at as an inconvenience to some given the price of POC batteries, but overall it is to ensure the safety of the passenger and preparing for the worse. After all, the saying is "Hope for the best, prepare for the worse".
Getting a hard copy of an Oxygen prescription.
No matter where your destination is, it is ALWAYS a good idea to get your hands on the physical oxygen prescription. This will set your mind at ease knowing that whatever questions come your way or whatever the situation is, no one will be able to take away or refuse admittance due to your oxygen therapy. If you don't have one yet or you have misplaced it, close this window and call your doctor ASAP!
Any other documents needed to travel with Oxygen Therapy?
A prescription for oxygen is great and no one will be able to argue whether you need it or not. However, Airlines, Train companies & Cruise lines can all have their own systematic approach for accepting medical equipment such as Oxygen Concentrators on board. The number one reason for this is for your safety and all passengers' safety. The second reason is to ensure your needs will not be un met in the event of delays or any unexpected events.
To see if your Oxygen Concentrator is FAA approved, go to Acceptance Criteria for Portable Oxygen Concentrators.
We've included some links below for certain airlines but make sure to check in with the airline you have chosen to fly with!
WestJet, AirCanada, Air Canada Medical Form, United Airlines, CopaAirlines, Aeromexico.
Although I cannot recommend one or the other since Oxygen needs differ with pathologies, overall from a practical standpoint and 10 years in the Respiratory and Oxygen Service industry, I highly recommend to take a hard look at Portable Oxygen Concentrators for safe and stress-free travelling and Stationary Concentrators for home use.