Updated: Mar 12
The deadly 2nd wave of COVID-19 pandemic has increased the number of active cases and fatality rate in India to an alarming extent. People are rushing to hospitals for ventilators, oxygen beds, and ICU beds to save their loved ones.
A lot of infected patients are treating themselves at home instead of queuing up outside hospital boundaries by using oxygen concentrators and oxygen cylinders at home. Because of the shortage of oxygen beds in hospitals, oxygen concentrators have become the “rescuers” to treat patients with mild infections at home.
Read on to find about oxygen concentrators and how they are helping the COVID-19 patients.
What is an Oxygen Concentrator, and How does it Work?
COVID-19 spread through the transmission of droplets via close personal contact, sneezing, and coughing. The virus affects your lungs by gaining entry into the body, where it destroys the mucous membrane of your mouth and nose. The virus starts replicating throughout the body and makes copies of itself. (1)
The lower airways of your respiratory tract contain ACE-2 receptors. This is where the coronavirus starts hijacking the healthy ACE-2 receptors and kills them. The lungs get infected and inflamed because the virus causes the fluid to fill up in the lungs, making it difficult for you to breathe. (2)
Usually, 21% of oxygen and 78% of nitrogen is present in the atmosphere. Oxygen concentrators are promising medical devices, which work by taking oxygen from nearby surroundings or the room and purifying it by filtering out nitrogen. Oxygen concentrators are portable and can continuously work for 4 hours. However, 20-30 minutes of rest should be given to oxygen concentrators. They provide 90-96% pure oxygen, thus helping the patients to breathe easily. (3)
Like oxygen cylinders and tanks, oxygen concentrator supplies oxygen by using nasal tubes, cannula, or oxygen masks.
Different Capacity Oxygen Concentrators:
Oxygen concentrators are available in different capacities. The capacity of the oxygen concentrators can be defined based on the flow rate of oxygen. The flow rate of oxygen is calculated on litre per minute basis. In market concentrators of 3, 5, 7, and 10 LPM capacities are available. Based on patient need you should be able to choose right oxygen concentrator.
The medical grade oxygen concentrators are the machines which can supply concentrated oxygen 93+-3% purity. Flow rate of oxygen and concentration capacity is very important to consider while buying the right oxygen concentrator for you.
Choosing the right brand and good quality oxygen concentrator is very important aspect while buying oxygen concentrators. Choosing a concentrator which is having good after sales services is vital and it should be with at least 2 years of warranty period.
How are Oxygen Concentrators Important for COVID-19 Patients?
As scarcity of oxygen is increasing in most of the states of India, oxygen concentrators are working as “saviours” to provide oxygen to the patients in need. (6)
Oxygen concentrators are most important when the patient's oxygen level drops down to 92 or 90%, and he/she requires supplementary oxygen. A person having an oxygen saturation level of 94-100 is considered healthy and safe. (6)
Oxygen concentrators are efficient for patients whose saturation level does not drop below 90%. However, even if your saturation level drops to 85%, oxygen concentrators can still help.
If you're having post-COVID complications like shortness of breath, you can preserve your oxygen levels with an oxygen concentrator. However, it is not recommended to use oxygen concentrators for ICU patients and those whose saturation is too low.
What is the Difference Between Oxygen Concentrator and Oxygen Cylinders?
Oxygen concentrators take the air and purify it to provide to the patients with low oxygen levels. Oxygen cylinders have already compressed oxygen present within the tank.
Oxygen concentrators have infinite supply of medical grade oxygen unless turned off, while oxygen cylinders have finite supply of compressed oxygen. (7). Oxygen cylinders should be requiring refilling which can done only at oxygen plants.
Purity of oxygen varies between 90% to 96% in oxygen concentrators. Whereas oxygen cylinders will be having more than 99% pure oxygen.
Oxygen concentrators are very cost effective in case of longer use. Whereas oxygen cylinders may be bit expensive since they will be requiring periodic refilling services.
Things to Keep in Mind While Using Oxygen Concentrator:
Here are some things that you should keep in mind whenever you use an oxygen concentrator at home:
If you’re a COVID-19 patient and your pulse oximeter shows extreme fluctuations in your oxygen level despite using the oxygen concentrator, let’s say below 92, you should immediately go to the hospital to seek immediate medical help.
You should not use an oxygen concentrator near an open flame and should be away from fire and high heat places.
If you want to use the oxygen concentrator for a long time, make sure that windows and doors are open and the room is well-ventilated. (9)
Prevent your oxygen concentrator from overheating by placing it in an open space to minimize the chances of device failure. (10)
Provide rest to the machine periodically to ensure efficiency and prevent breakdown.
Clean the carbon filters periodically to ensure high efficiency.
Use stabilizers if there is any power fluctuation problem.
Do not forget to use only distilled water or RO water in the humidifier to prevent any cross infection.
Monitor the oxygen purity periodically to ensure patient is getting sufficient good quality oxygen.
1. Yuki K, Fujiogi M, Koutsogiannaki S. COVID-19 pathophysiology: A review. Clin Immunol Orlando Fla. 2020 Jun;215:108427.
2. Azer SA. COVID-19: pathophysiology, diagnosis, complications and investigational therapeutics. New Microbes New Infect. 2020 Sep 1;37:100738.
3. Oxygen concentrators during COVID-19: What we need to know [Internet]. mint. 2021 [cited 2021 May 25]. Available from: https://www.livemint.com/science/health/oxygen-concentrators-during-covid-19-what-we-need-to-know-11619860214692.html
4. Oxygen Concentrators - How Are They Helping The COVID-19 Patients? [Internet]. PharmEasy Blog. 2021 [cited 2021 May 25]. Available from: https://pharmeasy.in/blog/oxygen-concentrators-how-are-they-helping-the-covid-19-patients/
5. Difference between Oxygen Concentrator & Oxygen Cylinder [Internet]. TriBeCa Care. 2015 [cited 2021 May 31]. Available from: https://tribecacare.com/blog/how-is-oxygen-concentrator-different-from-oxygen-cylinder/
6. COVID-19: Understanding the difference between oxygen concentrator and oxygen cylinder [Internet]. The Indian Express. 2021 [cited 2021 May 25]. Available from: https://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/health/covid-19-understanding-the-difference-between-an-oxygen-concentrator-and-oxygen-cylinder-7304017/
7. Commissioner O of the. Pulse Oximeters and Oxygen Concentrators: What to Know About At-Home Oxygen Therapy. FDA [Internet]. 2021 Feb 19 [cited 2021 May 25]; Available from: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/pulse-oximeters-and-oxygen-concentrators-what-know-about-home-oxygen-therapy
8. COVID-19 Explainer: All You Need To Know About Oxygen Concentrators | COVID Explainers [Internet]. NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth Swachh India. 2021 [cited 2021 May 25]. Available from: https://swachhindia.ndtv.com/covid-19-explainer-all-you-need-to-know-about-oxygen-concentrators-59147/