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Who needs Oxygen?

Some acute (short-term) and chronic (ongoing) diseases and conditions can prevent you from getting enough oxygen.

Acute Disease and Conditions

You may receive oxygen therapy if you're in the hospital for a serious condition that prevents you from getting enough oxygen.  Once you've recovered from the condition, the oxygen will likely be stopped.

Some diseases and conditions that may require short-term oxygen therapy are:

  • Severe pneumonia.  Pneumonia is an infection in one or both of the lungs.  If severe, the infection causes your lungs' air sacs to become very inflamed.  This prevents the air sacs from moving enough oxygen into your blood.
  • Sever asthma attack.  Asthma is a lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways.  Most people who  have asthma, including many children, can safely manage their symptoms.  But if you have a sever asthma attack, you may need hospital care that includes oxygen therapy.
  • Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS). As part of your treatment, you may receive extra oxygen through a nasal continuous positive airway pressure machine, or through a tube in the nose.

Chronic Disease and Conditions

Long-term oxygen therapy might be used to treat some disease and conditons, such as:

  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).  This is a progressive disease in which damage to the air sacs prevents them from moving enough oxygen into the bloodstream. 
  • Late-stage  heart failure.  This is a condition in which the heart can't pump enough oxygen-rich blood to meet the body's needs.
  • Cyctic fibrosis (CF).  CF is an inherited disease of the secretory glands, including the glands that make mucus and sweat.  People who have CF have thick, sticky mucus that collects in their airways.  The mucus makes it easy for bacteria to grow.  This leads to repeated, serious lung infections.  Over time, these infections can severly damage the lungs.
  • Sleep related breathing disorders that lead to low levels of oxygen in the blood during sleep, such as sleep apnea

Reference: NIH National Heart Blood and Lung Institute: www.nhlbi.nih.gov