Inhalation of oxygen on a regular basis is recommended by ten out of ten doctors. With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), however, every breath is a struggle, or one simply does not take enough oxygen in via ordinary breathing. Portable oxygen devices can help sufferers live a normal, healthy life.
Multiple studies show that using oxygen for at least 15 hours a day on a long-term basis increases quality of life and helps people live longer with COPD. It is especially useful not only during exercise, but during sleep, as breathing slows down naturally but COPD sufferers still need a higher level of oxygen during that time. It is also helpful for air travel, as cabin pressures simulate being at an elevation of 8000 feet (2500m); this is not a problem for most people, but the reduced oxygen in the air can cause complications with COPD.
There are several devices that can deliver oxygen; they are designed to be portable, or have portable components, so sufferers are not bound to the hospital or their home. All devices use one of two ways to store concentrated oxygen, liquid or gaseous, each of which have good and bad points.
Gaseous systems store oxygen as a gas, usually in a compression bottle like a diver's SCUBA tank. Older gaseous systems would give the user a home unit that compressed oxygen from the air into a useful concentration for COPD relief, while the supplier gave the user separate tanks to take with them on any travels. This meant that the user could only go as far as the tubes on his home unit, or for as far as the bottle she was carrying lasted; and the bottles were heavy and required wheels.
The trans-fill system combines the two methods: concentrating the oxygen in the household and storing it into light bottles that can be carried by users out and about, or even just around the house. The entire system can be moved if the user needs or wants to travel, giving it an additional advantage. However, the downside of the trans-fill system is that it requires electricity to function, adding to utility bills and making power outages a serious threat.
Liquid storage stores oxygen in exactly the way one would expect from the name. The advantages are clear-cut. First, it stores a higher volume in a smaller space than gaseous systems, giving more oxygen for a longer period of time than a gaseous system can. This makes it the only choice for the worst sufferers of COPD. Second, liquid storage does not rely on electricity, meaning that it doesn't add to bills or make users vulnerable to power blackouts.
However, liquid oxygen is not travel-portable, aside from small amounts in a travel reservoir. Traveling requires arrangement of a new reservoir at the destination. It's also difficult to obtain and restricted in some areas, as liquid oxygen is highly dangerous.
Speaking of danger, concentrated oxygen is very, very flammable. Even the gaseous systems can ignite if exposed to open flames, making it potentially fatal if combined with smoking tobacco. Liquid oxygen is even more hazardous, which is why it is so difficult to obtain in some places. Nearly empty bottles can explode if exposed to moderate heat such as strong sunlight, and a liquid oxygen spill is not only dangerous to touch but is just as flammable as gaseous oxygen.
While concentrated oxygen has hazards if mishandled, it is a vital component in making the lives of those with COPD healthier, happier, and fuller. Make sure to speak with your doctor about the benefits of using oxygen treatment for COPD."