What is Supplemental Oxygen?

Before 2020, you may not have given a whole lot of thought to oxygen. Sure, you were aware that you needed oxygen to live, but it probably wasn’t a huge concern of yours. 

When Covid-19 showed up at the beginning of the year, we all started becoming more aware of our breathing and of our need for oxygen. If you or a loved one is admitted to the hospital with any respiratory illness, one of the first things that the staff may administer is supplemental oxygen. And recently, there was a lot of talk about President Trump receiving supplemental oxygen for his bout with Covid-19.

To maintain normal breathing patterns if you are ill or having any breathing challenges, supplemental oxygen is the first intervention you will receive. 

What Is Supplemental Oxygen?

Why is Supplemental Oxygen Important?

Supplemental oxygen is likely the first line treatment for low blood oxygen levels. It is usually administered quickly to help bring the patient’s body oxygen levels back to normal. 

Oxygen is critical for health. It is used by the body to produce the energy we need. This is why we feel extremely fatigued when we are lacking oxygen. Not enough oxygen also causes confusion, rapid breathing, a fast heart rate, and wheezing or coughing. When a patient begins to demonstrate these symptoms, medical staff will quickly measure their oxygenation levels and administer oxygen, if required.

Supplemental Oxygen and Covid-19

One of the most concerning symptoms of advanced Covid-19 is shortness of breath. Lack of oxygen is a primary reason why many Covid-19 patients require care in the ICU or mechanical ventilation.

If you have been diagnosed with Covid-19, when the signs and symptoms of lack of oxygen start to develop, this is when most doctors recommend you seek immediate medical attention. 

Your doctor will first start by testing the amount of oxygen in your arterial blood or will use a pulse oximeter to indirectly measure oxygen levels. 

Normal oxygen levels range from 75 to 100 mmHg. A doctor may become concerned if your oxygen dips to 60 mmHg or lower. Depending on your results and symptoms, your doctor will then evaluate the best course of action for you and will likely recommend supplemental oxygen.

Do You Need Supplemental Oxygen?

Unless you are currently experiencing shortness of breath, you likely don’t have an immediate need for supplemental oxygen. Some people, particularly those with chronic respiratory conditions, need oxygen all the time. This type of oxygen is usually prescribed and monitored by a physician. 

But others, even those that are healthy, prefer to use supplemental oxygen occasionally. Oxygen may be beneficial if you are spending time at high altitudes or for intense athletic activity. Using supplemental oxygen, whether regularly or from time to time, has many beneficial applications for health and well-being. 

In the world of Covid-19, having supplemental oxygen around may temporarily improve breathing, so you can get the medical attention you need. This may be particularly beneficial for those at high risk of complications or who have pre-existing breathing problems. Also, an interesting fact, viruses cannot live in a pure oxygen-rich environment. 

When choosing to use supplemental oxygen always speak to your doctor about what is best for you. Having a can or two of Boost Oxygen on hand to help supplement oxygen temporarily, so you can breathe easier and make a clear-headed decision about your medical treatment. 

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Written by Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD

Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and freelance writer with 13-years of experience in the field of nutrition and dietetics. Through her writing she demonstrates her passion for helping people achieve ideal health and make transformational changes in their lives.