Proper Care and Use of the Nasal Cannula

Nasal CannulaA nasal cannula, pronounced cann - u - la, is tubing which goes into the nose for use of supplemental oxygen (O2). For home use, it is connected to an oxygen concentrator. It requires proper cleaning to prevent contamination and risk of infection.The Proper Care of Nasal Cannulas

The care of one's nasal cannula, may differ slightly, depending on how often the cannula is used. However, one rule remains constant; always clean it before using it again. It should be wiped down with an alcohol swab. If it's used 24 hours a day, seven days a week (24/7), it may be easier to have two cannulas so that one may be used while the other one is being cleaned. Alternate the tubing for two weeks only, then start fresh cannulas.

Otherwise, nasal cannulas used daily should be switched out for a new one every week. If a cannula is only used at night, it should be changed every two weeks.

The tubing leading up to the seven foot, nasal cannula piece, should be changed every month for 24/7 use, and every other month for nightly use. For those who just use it PRN (as needed), it may be changed every three to six months.

These are minimums, and one may have them changed more often, if desired, or especially if one had been sick.

Trouble Shooting Tips for Oxygen Tubing

One of the worse side affects of using supplemental O2, are nasal irritation and dryness. Thus, most daily users of oxygen will get a humidifier bottle attached to the concentrator. Unfortunately, it is this bottle of water which causes the most trouble for O2 users. However, once one is aware of the problems it may cause, the problems are easily worked out.

Water may become trapped in the tubing, reducing or stopping the flow of the oxygen. Do not try to increase the flow on the concentrator. Oxygen is a drug, and should only be used at the liter flow prescribed by a doctor. Instead, simply replace the tubing. Increasing the flow may actually cause more water to back up into the tubing.

To test if oxygen is flowing properly, turn the concentrator on to prescribed liter flow. Place the end of the nasal cannula into a glass of water. If the water bubbles, the tubing is functioning properly.

Another common cause of lack of O2 flow is, cross-threading the humidifier bottle.

Humidifiers should only be used with distilled water. Which is not only purest for ones lungs, but also best for optimal care and use of the humidifier container and tubing. Fresh water should be used everyday, and the container should be thoroughly cleaned once a week.

Last, but not least, the maximum length of tubing allowed for efficient use of an oxygen concentrator is 57 feet. This includes the seven foot length of the nasal cannula tubing.