How to administer oxygen?

If you’ve found yourself in a situation where someone needs oxygen, you might be wondering what the heck to do. Fear not! Administering oxygen is actually easier than it seems. We’ll walk through everything step-by-step and help you get your patient breathing easy again.

The Basics of Oxygen

Before we dive into how to administer oxygen, let’s first talk about what it is and why it’s so important.

Oxygen is vital for all life on Earth – including humans! It helps us breathe by entering our lungs and binding with red blood cells. This allows those red blood cells to transport the oxygen throughout our body, which fuels all of our organs and tissues.

When someone isn’t getting enough oxygen for whatever reason – whether that’s due to lung disease, heart failure or some other issue – they can become seriously ill very quickly. That’s where administering supplemental oxygen comes in!

Types of Supplemental Oxygen

There are a variety of different ways that supplemental oxygen can be administered:

Nasal Cannula

A nasal cannula looks like two little prongs that go directly into your nostrils (think Katharine Hepburn in “On Golden Pond”). They’re super lightweight and comfortable because they don’t require anything covering your mouth or face.

Face Mask

Face masks come in many shapes, sizes, colors etcetera… just kidding about the last one! Basically there are regular masks that cover both nose & mouth (which makes me think-what if John Travolta wore one when he danced with Uma Thurman at Jack Rabbit Slims?) , then there are also ones specifically designed only for either nose or mouth coverage.


The non-rebreather mask has an attached reservoir bag filled with air so the patient gets more fresh air instead of exhaling back into their old CO2-filled breaths.

Venturi Mask

The venturi mask has a weird cone-like structure that flares out, with various color-coded tips which indicate different oxygenation rates- great for a “Guess the Color” game!

Bag Valve Mask (BVM) or Ambu-Bag

This is like… imagine holding a large balloon that you squeeze and release repeatedly over your nose & mouth – slightly claustrophobic but very effective in getting more air into your lungs for people who cannot breathe adequately on their own.

Administering Oxygen: Step-by-Step Guide

Now that we’ve covered the types of supplemental oxygen, let’s get into how to actually administer it. The exact steps will depend on which type of delivery tool you’re using, so be sure to double-check any specifics for the device at hand.

  1. Verify Patient Need
    • Make sure they actually require supplemental oxygen otherwise giving them too much could lead to respiratory problems down the line.
  2. Get Equipment Ready
    • Gather all necessary supplies such as tubing, oxygen source etcetera…
  3. Prepare Device For Use
    • Set up anything needed before putting respirator gear onto patient + make sure everything is clear/visible and working/airtight e.g valve connections
  4. Position Patient Correctly
    • Depending on whether nasal cannulas/masks are used..make sure they sit properly around nose/mouth : think straight by moving neck forward unless using Bi-Pap where tilted back is better (like watching some Netflix).
      funny fact John Travolta was not wearing one when he danced with Uma Thurman!?
  5. Check Oxygen Concentration
    • Confirming levels with pulse oximeter if available-especially useful since critical conditions mean people can go from stable to emergency status really quickly!
  6. Turn On Cylinder/Air Tank
    • Before starting turn cylinder/regulator fully counterclockwise so oxygen doesn’t spurt everywhere and endanger anyone’s life!
  7. Secure Air Supply
    • Ensure tubing/attached components etcetera all secured properly and without leaks.
  8. Monitor Patient
    • Be on the lookout for possible adverse effects like suffocating, choking or gasping sounds that could indicate you’re giving them too much oxygen
  9. Adjust Oxygen Flow Rate
    • Make sure to turn it down slowly after not hearing any more audible wheezing clicks/pops/etc

Final Thoughts

Administering supplemental oxygen might seem intimidating at first — but with this guide, you should now be equipped to handle whatever comes your way! Don’t forget to double-check specific instructions for your chosen device before getting started.

Keep in mind the crucial importance of administering a proper amount of oxygen-which varies by individual as well as situation-and always pay attention closely so if anything seems off…give yourself some credit & take proactive measures-that patient likely has no other choice!

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