How Much Oxygen Does A COVID-19 Patient Need? How To Choose The Right Oxygen Concentrator For Home?

Updated: Jun 13, 2021

Philips Oxygen Concentrator

In India, the COVID-19 pandemic has made the population feel the value of oxygen. Liquid medical oxygen, Spo2, and oxygen concentrators are now casually used because of the COVID-19 severity. Oxygen support has become very important for COVID-19 patients. But why do patients need oxygen, and what are the oxygen requirements for COVID-19 patients?

The oxygen that a COVID-19 patient needs or takes is “medical oxygen.” Patients who are in dire need of oxygen use medical oxygen. Medical oxygen is purified to over 93% by specialized manufacturing units. Severely-ill COVID-19 patients (less than 10% cases) fail to inhale environmental oxygen into their lungs; that’s why they require medical oxygen. The usage of high flow nasal cannula (HFNC) is also required for fewer COVID-19 patients (1).

Why is Oxygen Supply Important for COVID-19 Patients?

Coronavirus impairs lung function by causing inflammation in the lungs, reducing oxygenated blood flow in the body. A reduction in the flow of oxygenated blood causes dips in oxygen saturation levels. When the virus causes inflammation, it obstructs normal oxygen saturation levels (normal range = 94-99%). A patient needs oxygen therapy when their oxygen saturation levels drop below 93% (2).

An average person inhales and exhales about 11,000 litres of air per day. This is about seven to eight litres of air per minute. About 20% oxygen is present in the inhaled air, and 15% oxygen is present in exhaled air. In severe cases of COVID-19, the lung capacity to absorb oxygen is reduced (3).

How Much Oxygen Does A COVID-19 Patient Need?

Many doctors prescribe COVID-19 patients a self-test, a six-minute walk, to check their oxygen level. A patient should check their oxygen level before starting the walk and after finishing the walk. If the difference of starting and ending oxygen levels is 3% or more and there is a drop in oxygen level instead of any improvement, then a patient should go for oxygen therapy. A patient’s body is starving of oxygen if they feel breathlessness or have trouble finishing the six-minute walk (1).

The severity of COVID-19 symptoms and oxygen saturation levels determine a patient’s need for oxygen. According to clinical management protocols, a COVID-19 patient requires 5 litres of oxygen per minute. Though, some patients need less oxygen, e.g., 1-3 litres per minute.

If a patient requires HFNC support, 3600 litres per hour or 60 litres per minute of oxygen is needed. According to many doctors, severe cases require up to 86,000 litres per minute per patient (4).

Are Oxygen Concentrators Helpful? How can you Choose the Right Oxygen Concentrator?

People have made oxygen concentrators so popular to be used at home for isolated patients. If a patient has an oxygen requirement of 2-3 litres per minute, oxygen concentrators can help improve oxygen level.

It is not easy to choose a suitable oxygen concentrator, especially when you have never bought it. If you're planning to buy one, here's a buying guide for you to make the right choice:

1. Buy from a Trustworthy Brand: Oxygen concentrators bought from lesser-known brands are quality-compromised. Look for a trustworthy brand to buy the quality product (5).

2. Check the Flow Rate Capacity: The rate at which oxygen reaches from the machine to the patient is called flow rate. Not all oxygen concentrators come with the same flow rates. Therefore, speak with your doctor regarding your requirement for the flow rate, and then proceed further(6).

3. Noise Level: Every oxygen concentrator generates noise while operating. People who are sensitive to noise should opt for concentrators that work silently. Portable oxygen concentrators come with a little noise, ranging from 40-58 decibels of sound.

4. Power Consumption: It is advised to buy those oxygen concentrators that require the lowest power consumption. However, your doctor can prescribe the oxygen concentrator that consumes more power to meet your oxygen requirements(7).

5. Oxygen Concentration: You should always check the level of oxygen concentration while buying the right concentrator. Oxygen conc