Home Medical Oxygen Safety Tips

The increasing use of medical oxygen at home over the past decade has increased the number of patients suffering from burn injuries that the Burn Center at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center has treated.

Medical oxygen is 100 percent oxygen. This can raise the oxygen levels inside a structure causing many items that would not normally burn to more easily ignite and burn hotter and faster. Burns resulting from the misuse of medical oxygen can be life threatening; however, they are preventable.

The U.S. Fire Administration recommends the following tips to keep you safe while using medical oxygen at home.

  1. Never smoke in a home where medical oxygen is in use.
  2. Post “no smoking” signs in and outside of the home. Warn guests and neighbors of the flammable gas within your home.
  3. Keep all ignition sources away from the medical oxygen. This means matches, lighters, candles, gas stoves, appliances, electric razors and even hair dryers should be at least 10 feet away from the point where the oxygen comes out.
  4. Do not wear medical oxygen while cooking. Oils, grease and petroleum products can spontaneously ignite when exposed to high levels of oxygen. Also avoid using oil-based lotions, lip balm or aerosol sprays.
  5. Check smoke alarms regularly. Make sure that the home has working smoke alarms and test them monthly.
  6. Keep a working fire extinguisher within reach. For your immediate safety, make sure you have an unexpired and working fire extinguisher somewhere easily accessible in your home.
  7. Create a home fire escape plan. Have a home fire escape plan with two ways out of every room and an outside meeting place. Practice the plan with everyone in the household at least twice a year.
  8. If a fire occurs, turn off the medical oxygen and leave the house. Call 911 for emergency services if a fire ignites.