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Oxygen Therapy: Learning about using oxygen therapy in the hospital

Oxygen Therapy

Learning about using oxygen therapy in the hospital

Why do I need oxygen therapy?

If your lungs aren't able to provide enough oxygen on their own, your healthcare provider may prescribe oxygen therapy.

Oxygen is a medicine and is only given if you need it. If you feel short of breath but your oxygen levels are normal, oxygen therapy doesn't help. Your healthcare team will work with you to find other ways to treat your shortness of breath.

Is there a typical amount of oxygen I will get with oxygen therapy?

Just like any other medicine, oxygen therapy is given at different doses to treat you safely. When you receive oxygen therapy, you can't become addicted or dependent on it.

The amount of oxygen is different for each person and is based on how well your lungs are working. Your healthcare team will monitor how much oxygen you need while you're on oxygen therapy using a number called oxygen saturation, or SpO2. They may adjust the dose or rate of oxygen to make sure you get the amount that's right for you. This is called your target SpO2 range.

The target range for most adults is 92 to 96% SpO2. If you have certain types of lung disease, your target will be lower. If you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), for example, your target will be 88 to 92% SpO2.

It's very important to stay at the amount of oxygen that is prescribed for you. Studies show that too much oxygen therapy can harm you.

How can I be safe when I use oxygen in the hospital?

Follow all of these instructions when you're moving around the hospital while on oxygen.

Never smoke or vape while you use oxygen. It's also important that others don't smoke or vape near you. People have gotten serious burns to their face and body when they smoked or vaped while on oxygen therapy.

Do not adjust the knobs or valves on the wall above your hospital bed or on your portable oxygen tank. This will change your dose and you may get too much or too little oxygen therapy.

When you leave your room, make sure you know how much oxygen you need. Your healthcare team will tell you what your dose is and how long your portable oxygen tank will last.

What can I do about my dry nose and nosebleeds?

When you use oxygen therapy at a high dose or for a long period of time, the skin inside your nose can get dry and sore or it can bleed.

If this happens to you, ask your healthcare team for a water-based gel or cream for your nose. Do not use petroleum-based or oil-based products on your face or in your nose while on oxygen therapy.

Where can I learn more?

To see this information online and learn more, visit


For 24/7 nurse advice and general health information call Health Link at 811.

Current as of: August 4, 2022

Author: Medicine SCN – Respiratory Section, Alberta Health Services

This material is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified health professional. This material is intended for general information only and is provided on an "as is", "where is" basis. Although reasonable efforts were made to confirm the accuracy of the information, Alberta Health Services does not make any representation or warranty, express, implied or statutory, as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, applicability or fitness for a particular purpose of such information. Alberta Health Services expressly disclaims all liability for the use of these materials, and for any claims, actions, demands or suits arising from such use.