Just two months back when the second wave of COVID-19 hit the country, there was a hue and cry for oxygen cylinders and tanks. All across the country, the sight was disheartening but people were helpless. The scarcity of oxygen cylinders and tanks in the hospitals gave rise to the demand for oxygen concentrators in India. There are different types of O2 concentrators like pulse flow, continuous flow, etc. and they are usually portable. While many people believe that concentrators are the same as cylinders; the truth is they are not. Oxygen concentrators may be similar to oxygen tanks and cylinders but they are not the same. Here’s an ultimate guide that will help you choose a portable oxygen concentrator.
What is an Oxygen Concentrator?
Oxygen concentrators are designed to distribute oxygen in almost the same way how oxygen tanks and cylinders do. They deliver oxygen to the patient with the help of the same nasal cannula or oxygen mask but there is a difference. While oxygen tanks have a fixed amount of pressurised oxygen-filled into them, the oxygen concentrators for home or hospital use are designed to collect oxygen from the surrounding air, concentrate it, and then distribute it to the patient. This helps in eliminating the need for refilling or replacement of the tank.
From what is an oxygen concentrator, let’s move to its working principle.
Oxygen concentrators work on the principle of rapid pressure swing absorption. In this, the nitrogen is removed from the air because of the zeolite materials that allow other gases to pass out, leaving only oxygen as the primary gas. After the oxygen is collected, the pressure drops that let nitrogen release and expelled back into the air via silencers. Since they have no refilling limitations, large or portable oxygen concentrators are considered the best and more convenient option than regular oxygen tanks.
Oxygen tanks and cylinders have the risk of leaking, which can cause oxygen saturation, leading to the potential risk of fire. Oxygen concentrators, on the other hand, have no such safety issues; one of the benefits of portable oxygen concentrators is that they can supply unlimited oxygen till the availability of electricity.
Another benefit of an oxygen concentrator is that they are designed with in-built oxygen sensors that can detect the purity level; in case the purity level goes down, the sensors indicate, alerting the doctors and nurses.
Things to Keep in Mind While Choosing a Portable Oxygen Concentrator
Now that you know what is an oxygen concentrator, here are a few things that you need to keep in mind while choosing one: –
• Types of Oxygen Concentrators
There are two types of oxygen concentrators that you can buy – 1) Pulse Flow 2) Continuous Flow. Continuous flow concentrators are those that have the same oxygen flow every minute unless it is switched off. Pulse flow concentrators, on the other hand, are those that detect the pattern of breathing and distributes oxygen when inhalation is detected. Adding to this, oxygen concentrators are also available in various sizes like large models for homes and clinics, compact and portable oxygen concentrators for seniors, and so on. Hence, depending on the need, choose the right oxygen concentrator.
• Take Physician’s Advice
You know what an oxygen concentrator is used for but do you know how it operates?
It is said that normal air has 21% oxygen. You have to keep in mind that the concentrator first sucks the atmospheric air, then filters nitrogen and other gases, after which it releases the compressed oxygen through the cannula or oxygen mask. As per reports, it is said that if approximately 1-litre oxygen is distributed to the patient through an oxygen concentrator, the saturation level of the air in the lungs increases to 24%, with 2-litres, it increases to 28%, and with 10-litres, it almost reaches 60%. Oxygen concentrators can supply 0.1-litres per minute to 5-10-litres. Hence, it is important to consult the doctor to know the need for oxygen in the patient’s body, before buying an oxygen concentrator for home use.
• Maintenance of the Oxygen Concentrator
Truth be told, oxygen concentrators are expensive if compared to the price of oxygen cylinders. However, they are a one-time investment as they don’t require replacement or refilling, making the benefits of using oxygen concentrators even more prominent. Besides, it also requires minimal maintenance. Power consumption, disposable filters, and sieve beds are the only things that you would need to take care of, that too, over the years. However, because there are various types and sizes of oxygen concentrators, the maintenance requirement may vary a bit or so. That is why before narrowing on a concentrator, check for its maintenance needs.
Precautions to Take While Using an Oxygen Concentrator
Portable oxygen concentrators easy-to-use and convenient for the patient in need of oxygen as well as for those taking care of them. However, if you are using the portable oxygen concentrators at your home, make sure they are placed at a location that is out of reach for children. Adding to this, also make sure to monitor the levels frequently to avoid hassles.
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