7 Oxygen Safety Tips

These tips could save your life

If you have COPD and have to use supplemental oxygen, understanding proper oxygen safety is essential. These oxygen safety tips will teach you how to avoid some common pitfalls you may have never considered, including how to store oxygen canisters, to the personal care products you should avoid.

Read the Complete Guide to Oxygen Therapy for more tips.

Don't smoke anywhere near the oxygen.

senior woman adjusting oxygen tank in living room
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Oxygen is a safe, nonflammable gas, but it does support combustion, meaning that materials burn more readily in its presence. That includes cigarettes.

Although the vast majority of burn injuries and deaths are not related to smoking and home oxygen, they aren't completely uncommon. They occur more often than we'd like to think. Just read these statistics:

  • A review conducted by the Fire Incident Data Organization found that 7 percent of all victims who died in fires caused by smoking were using medical oxygen.
  • The National Ethics Committee reports that when a fire occurs and home oxygen is involved, it is usually caused by smoking.
  • A study of burn injuries that required emergency room treatment found that 24 out of the 27 cases were related to fires that started when the patient was lighting up a cigarette.
  • The Centers for Disease Control reports that 89 percent of deaths related to fire and home oxygen use are caused by smoking.

Despite these shocking statistics, many smokers who use supplemental oxygen at home aren't ready to quit. If you fall into this category, remember: smoking while actively using oxygen is the most dangerous thing you can do.

You should never smoke, or allow anyone else to smoke in your home or car while oxygen is in use. If you must smoke, discuss removing your oxygen and smoking far away from your oxygen source - preferably outside - with your doctor.

Keep oxygen canisters away from open flames.

Oxygen canisters must be kept at least 5 to 10 feet away from an open flame, including gas stoves, lit fireplaces, wood burning stoves and candles. Some people go so far as to keep their canisters in an entirely different room by using long oxygen tubing.

You can find relatively inexpensive extended oxygen tubing online and at medical supply stores. You can also check with your own oxygen supply company to see what tubing options are available that may also be covered by your insurance.

Avoid using an electric razor.

Many oxygen supply companies recommend that patients using supplemental oxygen not use it while shaving with an electric razor. Electric razors are a potential source of sparks. As innocuous as a tiny little spark may seem, it can lead to a full-blown fire once it comes in contact with a combustible gas like oxygen. If you use home oxygen, it's best to shave the old fashioned way: with shaving cream and a hand razor.

Avoid using petroleum-based lotions and creams.

Many body lotions and creams are made with petroleum, a highly flammable mixture of hydrocarbons. According to the American Lung Association, "the combustion of flammable products containing petroleum [like Vaseline] can also be supported by the presence of oxygen."

If you're using oxygen, it's best to stick to products that don't contain petroleum. Read the ingredient list before you use or buy anything.

Store oxygen cylinders safely.

Because oxygen supports combustion, it's important to store it safely and securely. Do not store oxygen cylinders near any type of heat source. Be sure your canisters are upright and secure. An oxygen storage cart or other device can help keep your canisters in the proper position.

Turn oxygen off when not in use.

Turning your oxygen off when you are not using it is one of the safest and smartest things you can do. Not only will it save you money, but it will support home safety and reduce your risk of in-home fires.

Follow your oxygen supplier's instructions.

Before beginning oxygen therapy in your home, it's important for you to understand and always follow your oxygen supplier's instructions. In addition to oxygen delivery, the supplier should also include company-specific instructions for safe use and storage of your oxygen canisters.

These instructions should also include a phone number to call if you have any questions. Keep the company's phone number posted in a visible location for easy access.



Ahrens M. Fires And Burns Involving Home Medical Oxygen. National Fire Protection Association. 2008.

American Lung Association. Supplemental Oxygen. Updated 2013.

Center for Disease Control. Fatal Fires Associated with Smoking During Long-Term Oxygen Therapy - Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma, 2000—2007. MMWR 57(31), 852-854.

Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Fire Administration. Behavioral Mitigation of Smoking Fires. 2006.

Robb B., et. al. Home Oxygen Therapy: Adjunct or Risk Factor? Journal of Burn Care & Rehabilitation. 2003. 24, 403-406.

Veterans Health Administration, National Center for Ethics in Health Care. Ethical Considerations That Arise When a Home Care Patient on Long Term Oxygen Therapy Continues to Smoke.

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