How does an Oxygen Concentrator Work? | What are Oxygen Concentrators, and User Safety Tip

Portable Oxygen Concentrator

In this write-up, we will discuss oxygen concentrators and how does an oxygen concentrator work everything you should know about this pandemic.

This will help you in understanding the working of oxygen concentrators, the best ones and how can you buy them in India.

Also, explore more about the details and features of oxygen concentrators which might help you.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, you might have heard about the shortage of oxygen for patients across the country.

People are struggling to get oxygen cylinders and even hospital beds for Covid infected people.

Doctors are advising Covid patients with mild symptoms to treat themselves at home through several effective measures.

Rising as a popular solution among these are oxygen concentrators.

People infected with Covid are in need of fresh oxygen to improve their health levels.

What is oxygen concentrator?

We know that the air we breathe consists of nitrogen, oxygen, and other gases as well.

The air has a 78% share of nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and 1% of other gases. However, people with low oxygen levels require higher oxygen levels to ensure better health conditions.

Therefore, an oxygen concentrator is used to absorb the oxygen from the air and filter out the nitrogen content from it.

This concentrates or increases the volume of levels of oxygen you breathe.

A pressure valve in the oxygen concentrator releases the oxygen through a pressure valve that is responsible for regulating the flow to the nasal cannula.

There is no need for constant refilling in an oxygen concentrator as it pulls the oxygen from its surroundings.

What is the normal blood oxygen level?

Several methods are available and used to measure blood oxygen levels. The common ways of measuring oxygen saturation levels are pulse-oximeter monitoring and blood tests.

The amount of oxygen in the blood is represented by SpO2 which should be over 95%.

For conditions with an oxygen level below 90% are termed hypoxemia.

However, the normal oxygen levels vary for people with chronic lung conditions or other breathing issues.

Depending on their health and health conditions, they can ask the doctors regarding the acceptable levels of oxygen.

However, for any individual, if the oxygen saturation levels go below 80%, it might affect their brain and heart functioning.

This could result in conditions such as cardiac arrest or respiratory failure.

Considering the Covid situation, not all patients require oxygen support.

Only patients with major symptoms, trouble in breathing, or lung inflammation require hospitalization and oxygen support.

How does an oxygen concentrator work?

Oxygen concentrators are those medical devices that are used to help people having low blood oxygen saturation levels.

The device is powered by plugging it into an electrical outlet or a battery, where the battery needs to be charged.

An oxygen concentrator collects the surrounding air, purifies it, and distributes it in the surrounding.

Before getting collected by the concentrator, air consists of 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen.

The yeah which comes out of the device consists of 90 to 95% pure Oxygen and significantly reduced levels of Nitrogen.

Nitrogen is separated from the air to allow the patient to inhale the highest possible dose of oxygen.

  • A sieve bed with a filter and compressor forms the main part of a portable oxygen concentrator. The air filtered into the concentrator is compressed by the compressor which then delivered in a continuous stream inside the concentrator.
  • The compressed air further moves to the sieve bed filters where they separate nitrogen from the air. This component consists of Zeolite, which is a microscopic cube with 6 sides and holes on each side. It is responsible for separating nitrogen.
  • A single oxygen concentrator has two sieve beds. After the air is compressed, it is forced into the first sieve bed which is filled with nitrogen; it sends oxygen into the product tank.
  • Further, when the gas flow is switched the compressed air is pushed to the second sieve bed.
  • The compressor in the first sieve bed is sent to the outside room while the product tank sends back the air into the first sieve bed
  • This drops the pressure from the first sieve bed and weakens oxygen due to which Zeolite releases nitrogen. Because of this, nitrogen and oxygen are infused together before getting released into the room as regular air.

Why we need Oxygen Concentrators for COVID-19 Patients?

With India battling the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic, the dramatic increase in new infections has resulted in a drastic surge in active cases throughout the country.

This laid a heavy load on the public health infrastructure and a spike in demand for oxygen concentrators.

  • To survive, a human requires a steady oxygen supply throughout our body.
  • Covid is a respiratory ailment that directly affects the lungs resulting in a sudden drop in oxygen levels in our body.
  • This situation requires oxygen therapy to ensure an adequate supply of oxygen to ensure acceptable oxygen levels are maintained in the body.
  • Oxygen saturation is the measure for oxygen levels which is marked as SpO2 and is a measure of hemoglobin in the blood that carries oxygen.
  • The normal and acceptable oxygen saturation level is 95 to 100%. For saturation levels below 94%, patients require quick treatment while an individual with levels below 90% is treated as a clinical emergency.

All this has given rise to an increased demand for oxygen concentrators across the country.

Doctors suggest people with mild Covid symptoms treat themselves at home with pure oxygen which they can get through oxygen concentrators.

Where to buy oxygen concentrators Online in India for home to treat Covid patients ?

Anyone willing to buy a concentrator can get it online from several websites selling oxygen concentrators such as Flipkart and Amazon.

You can also look for local shops or providers who are selling the devices.

Safety tips for using an oxygen concentrator at home

Ensure that you follow these safety tips during your usage of oxygen concentrators at home which is as follows:-

  • At any point in time, ensure that the oxygen concentrator is at a distance of at least 10 feet from the gas stove. Also, it should be placed away from all the sources of ignition such as matches, smoke, lighters, burnt candles, etc and should be in a well-ventilated area
  • Keep the oxygen keep it at least 2 feet away from the furniture or wall to allow sufficient air intake by the oxygen concentrator
  • Do not use any flammable substance near it such as aerosol sprays air fresheners or even sanitizers. Also, make sure that the device does not come in contact with oil or any alcohol-based solution
  • An oxygen concentrator will become hot using, therefore, make sure that it is kept in a well-ventilated area
  • Use a proper electrical outlet and not extension cords.
  • When not in use, keep it upright and turn off the system

Difference between Oxygen Cylinders and Oxygen Concentrators

Although both oxygen cylinders and oxygen concentrators are used to provide oxygen for people, they are quite different.

These points will help you understand the basic difference between the two which are as follows:-

  • Oxygen concentrators can act as an alternative for oxygen cylinders in certain cases
  • Oxygen cylinders can only supply 5-10 liters of oxygen per minute which might be very low in the case of critical patients who require around 40 liters of oxygen per minute. In this case, concentrators work the best.
  • Oxygen cylinders run out of Oxygen and are required to be referred while a concentrator will never run out of Oxygen and works as long as it has a power supply available
  • Oxygen concentrators can last for more than 5 years and function to produce oxygen throughout the day

Can Oxygen concentrators be harmful using without doctor’s prescription?

According to experts, using oxygen concentrators without a doctor’s prescription or medical guidance can prove to be harmful.

An expert stated that oxygen concentrators can benefit patients having moderate pneumonia caused due to Covid and oxygen levels below 94% but with suitable medical advice or hospital admission if not, it can be harmful.

Oxygen levels below 94% require medical help while those below 90% are considered are severe cases.

However, with adequate medical advice and prescription, people can use oxygen concentrators to ensure adequate oxygen supply.

What happens if your oxygen concentrator is set too high?

Too much or extra supplemental oxygen can result in oxygen toxicity which leads to lungs damage.

Too high levels harm the lung tissues which might cause the air sacs in the lungs to fill with fluid or prevent lung inflation.

Due to this, the lungs find it difficult to send oxygen into the blood. It is also termed oxygen poisoning and could cause breathing trouble and coughing.

More severe cases of oxygen toxicity can result in death.

To prevent this situation, you can ensure that you wisely use oxygen concentrators as per the guidance and medical advice.

You can also talk to a doctor to administer safe practices for oxygen intake through a concentrator.

Can you get too much oxygen from a concentrator?

Yes, the use of oxygen concentrators comes with the possibility of getting too much oxygen from the machine.

However, this situation rarely arises when you use the device as prescribed and directed.

Therefore, always follows the instructions and be careful while using oxygen concentrators. Also, for extra safety, follow the safety tips.

Do oxygen concentrators run out of oxygen?

No, oxygen concentrators never run out of oxygen and they can be used 24 hours a day.

This is because the device fetches air from its surroundings and filters it to provide pure oxygen unlike the oxygen cylinder having a limited amount of oxygen.

However, it is recommended to use it in a prescribed or required amount only.

High levels of oxygen intake can result in oxygen toxicity or poisoning.

Can I use tap water for an oxygen concentrator?

No, do not use tap water for an oxygen concentrator. If you decide to attach a humidifier to your oxygen concentrator, make sure that you get a medical prescription before doing so.

Also, never use tap or any other water type in the attached humidifier.

Only use distilled water to prevent the tiny impurities that can cause harm and result in buildup in your oxygen concentrators.

Do you need a prescription for an oxygen concentrator?

Yes, you should have a doctor’s prescription or expert advice to use oxygen concentrators.

This is done to ensure that it is used only when required and in the right manner.

Also, it should not be considered as a treatment for Covid but only an element in treatment.

How long does a home oxygen concentrator last?

Oxygen concentrators never run out of oxygen and can last as long as a power supply is available.

However, the lifecycle for a unit is around 1500 to 2000 hours or 5 to 7 years depending on its use.

They can even function for 24 hours. However, the device can heat up due to continued use, therefore, should be used with precaution and safety.

Do home oxygen concentrators use a lot of electricity?

The electricity consumption of an oxygen concentrator is directly proportional to its size and dosage setting.

The bigger it is and the higher the dosage setting it has, the higher will be your electricity consumption.

Therefore, you can ascertain this by picking a smaller size and setting the dosage level to the appropriate amount.

However, ensure that all the settings are done under expert advice or prescription.

How often should an oxygen concentrator be serviced?

The majority of the oxygen concentrators provide a service life of 2 to 3 years. After this time, certain models require replacing certain components or parts while some require servicing of the components.

However, all the replacements, servicing, or repairs should be done by authorized technicians only.

This ensures that your concentrators work with their highest efficiency and last long.

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