Oxygen therapy is a treatment in which oxygen is provided to the body to treat conditions such as asthma attacks. It is estimated that 8.3 % of people in the United States have asthma, with 1.3% emergency room visits.(1) Oxygen therapy can be used in the treatment of asthma.
Oxygen makes up around 21% of air a person breathes. Oxygen is used by the body to provide energy for various processes. Low oxygen levels in the blood can make a person fall short of breath or confused. It can also damage the body.
In oxygen therapy, extra oxygen is provided to people with low levels of oxygen in the blood. It is used in the treatment of low oxygen levels in the following conditions:
- Pulmonary fibrosis
- Cystic fibrosis
- Sleep apnea
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Severe asthma attacks
How Does Oxygen Therapy Work During Asthma Attack?
During an asthma attack, the muscle surrounding the bronchial tubes constrict. These tubes allow air to go in and out of a person’s lungs. As the tubes narrow, the passage of air becomes extremely difficult making a person fall short of breath. Oxygen therapy supplies extra oxygen to the lungs when the levels are low.
Oxygen is delivered from a container to the person through a face mask or tubes into a person’s nostrils.
Types of Oxygen Therapy
Two levels of oxygen are used while giving oxygen therapy and depending on the severity different oxygen levels are needed.(2)
Low-Flow Oxygen Delivery System
When a smaller amount of oxygen is needed low-flow oxygen delivery system is used. These systems dilute a small amount of oxygen with air in the room. The amount of extra oxygen a person gets depends on how much they can take with each breath of air. In this type, it is hard to determine how much oxygen a person is getting.
There are different types of low-flow oxygen delivery systems, which include:(3)
- Nasal Cannulas: In this type, tubes are inserted in the person’s nostrils. It provides air that is 24-40% oxygen.
- Simple Face Mask: A face mask fits over a person’s nose and mouth and supplies 35-55% oxygen air.
- Non-Rebreather Mask: A non-rebreather mask is a simple mask with are reservoir bag that prevents excess oxygen from going into the lungs. On breathing, while wearing a non-rebreather mask, excess oxygen is inhaled from the reservoir bag. Also, the non-rebreather mask prevents re-inhaling exhaled air.
High-Flow Oxygen Delivery System
The high-flow oxygen delivery system provides oxygen at a higher rate than a person breathes in. It can be set to an exact level a person needs.
In this oxygen delivery system, Venturi masks are included that fit over a person’s nose. A high-flow nasal cannula provides oxygen up to 100%. It can also heat the air making it easier to inhale.
High flow nasal cannula can be beneficial when treating people with asthma. In a study, it was found that high-flow nasal cannula can help in reducing shortness of breath in people with acute asthma more efficiently than low-flow methods.(4)
In another study high-flow nasal cannula was found effective in reducing respiratory distress in children with moderate to excess asthma.(5)
Benefits of Oxygen Therapy
Oxygen therapy can help in preventing serious complications. It can also provide people with additional benefits, such as:
- Increased energy levels
- Improved sleep
- Decreased shortness of breath
Safety and Risk of Oxygen Therapy
Oxygen therapy is a safe treatment, but, can have the following side effects:
- Morning headache
- Dry and bloody nose
Also, high oxygen levels can be damaging to people with acute asthma research noted. People receiving 100% oxygen experienced a high level of carbon-di-oxide in the blood. Therefore, only the amount of oxygen necessary to normalize blood oxygen level is recommended.(6)
Although there are not many ways to treat asthma, therefore, oxygen therapy proves to be a beneficial treatment.