Home Oxygen Therapy for Premature Babies

Home Oxygen Therapy for Premature Babies

Your baby needs oxygen therapy at home because he or she is not able to get enough oxygen from room air.

The oxygen is given through a small tube, called a nasal cannula, that fits into the nose and around the face.

Be Prepared

  • Notify your electric company if you are using an oxygen system. Your house will be a priority during a power outage.
  • Have backup tanks available, and know how to use them.
  • Go to a nearby home with power or closest hospital to plug in oxygen equipment.
  • Consider purchasing a backup generator for power outages.
  • Be sure to have a functioning smoke detector and fire extinguisher in your home at all time.

Oxygen Safety in the Home

  • Post "No Smoking" signs in the room where your oxygen is kept.
  • Post an “Oxygen in Use” sign on the front door. Check that all electrical equipment in the area near the oxygen is properly grounded.
  • Prevent trips and falls by securing loose cords and extra tubing.
  • Secure floor mats and rugs so that you will not trip or fall.
  • Avoid using extension cords with any medical equipment.
  • Be sure doorways, hallways and rooms have space for your baby’s portable oxygen system.
  • Avoid the use of electronic or battery operated toys. The new game control systems that vibrate and have other functions have caused issues with patients on oxygen.
  • Keep the oxygen system away from aerosol cans or sprays, including air fresheners or hair spray. These products are very flammable.
  • Do not use cleaning products that contain grease or oils, petroleum jelly, alcohol or flammable liquids on or near your oxygen system. These products cause oxygen to be flammable.
  • Avoid skin contact when filling your portable liquid oxygen tank. Frost buildup could cause injury.
  • Follow the oxygen safety precautions for your baby’s best interest. Your home care provider may notify your child’s doctor about safety concerns.

Oxygen Storage in the Home

  • Avoid open flames or heat source around the oxygen system.
  • Keep the oxygen system clean and dust-free.
  • Keep the oxygen system in a place where it won't get knocked over.
  • Store the oxygen cylinders in their stands, or laying on the floor, and out of sunlight.
  • Store your oxygen equipment in a well-ventilated area.

Caring for a Baby on Home Oxygen Therapy

  • Use the oxygen as ordered by your baby’s doctor. Too much or too little can be harmful.
  • Adjust the oxygen as ordered by your baby’s doctor. Your baby may need more oxygen at times when eating or starting to get sick or increased activity.
  • Take your baby to regular doctor check-ups.
  • Protect your baby’s skin where the oxygen is secured to the face. Look for skin redness where the oxygen touches the face. Ask your doctor if skin protector such as tender grip is needed.
  • Avoid using petroleum based products (such as Vaseline) on your baby’s face.

Signs of Breathing Problems

  • Very fast breathing
  • Heavy breathing (when you can see the ribs with each breath)
  • Widened nostrils while breathing
  • Struggling for air
  • Irritability or fussiness for no reason
  • Change in skin color, pale
  • Blue-gray around the mouth
  • Clammy or sweaty skin
  • Stopping to rest more frequently while feeding
  • Poor sucking or breathing faster while feeding
  • Pulling away from bottle or breast while feeding

What to Do If There Are Signs of Breathing Problems

1. Check the equipment:

  • Is the tank turned on?
  • Do the gauges show there is enough oxygen in the tank?
  • Is the flow rate correct?
  • Is the tubing kinked?
  • Is the tubing connected?
  • Is the nasal cannula clogged with mucus?

If the nasal cannula is clogged with mucus:   

  • Place the nasal cannula in a glass of water and look for bubbles.
  • If you do not see any bubbles, change the tubing or clean it with a damp cloth. (Do not use baby wipes.)

2. If the equipment is okay, increase the oxygen flow rate by ¼ liter until the baby is breathing easier.  Then call your doctor.

3. If breathing problems continue and your baby is a gray or blue color, CALL 911.

Last Updated 07/2016