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Portable Oxygen Concentrator Resource Center

The Importance of Changing Your Nasal Cannula

Posted by Duke on Oct 2, 2018 4:02:37 AM

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When you have received a COPD diagnosis, it is often followed by a prescription for medical grade oxygen.

You are left feeling overwhelmed with a wealth of new knowledge you must retain. With COPD you may have a need for supplemental medical grade oxygen. Medical grade oxygen treatment is typically delivered through a tube with two nasal prongs. This is better known as a nasal cannula.

Nasal cannulas are designed to be inserted into your nostrils and attached to your portable or home oxygen concentrator. Meaning they become dirty very quickly and regularly. So you need to make it a top priority to regularly replace and clean your nasal cannulas.

Reading COPD forums and blogs, there are countless patients saying something along the lines of “my oxygen provider tells me to only change my nasal cannula after I’ve had a respiratory infection, such as a cold.” Or “with regular cleaning you should only replace your nasal cannula 1-2 times a month.”

This is problematic because nasal cannulas are made of plastic, which will deteriorate and become infected with germs over time. Even more so when you are sick.

Often times you may not be able to see the deterioration in the form of tiny cracks that allow bacteria and mold to thrive, while dirt, dust, and pollen can get stuck in these cracks. Nasal cannulas and tubing are like a petri dish for germs and bacteria.

Let’s discuss how to ensure healthy use of your nasal cannulas with oxygen therapy.


Change Your Nasal Cannula Every 10 Days

Depending on who you talk to, some manufacturers recommend changing your nasal cannulas once a week whilelady_with_cannula.jpg others say once a month. It’s the same story when you talk to your health care provider.

With conflicting opinions you are left confused, so to save money you may choose to lean towards using 1 or 2 cannulas per month.

The biggest factor for deciding when to change your nasal cannula is your health. If at anytime you have been sick or think you may be coming down with something, you should immediately change your cannula. By doing so you will help minimize the spreading of germs.

If you choose not to replace your cannula after being sick, you will still be at risk for a bacterial infection due to the bacteria still being present on the cannula and tubing. Plus, if the virus is still living in the cannula it can mutate and impact you even worse than before.

Even if you aren’t sick, by only replacing your cannula 1-2 times a month, you are leaving yourself open to large amounts of bacteria that is building up on your nasal cannula. Which could potentially lead to the flu, common cold, or pneumonia.

With that said, we recommend that you change your nasal cannulas every 10 days.



Effective Cannula Cleaning to Minimize Infections

When using a nasal cannula, it’s extremely important that you clean your cannula after each use. If you are prescribed oxygen 24/7, you should aim to clean your cannula 1 to 2 times per day, or more frequently if you are currently sick.

Doing so will help to further protect yourself from bacteria building up on your nasal cannula and infecting you.

Disinfecting your cannula only takes a few minutes. Simply wipe down the nasal prongs with an alcohol wipe or swab, allow to dry, and it’s ready for use.

You should also use warm water mixed with disinfecting dish soap and a half cup of white vinegar to clean your cannula each week.


How to Clean Your Nasal Cannula

Daily Cleaning

  • Step 1: After each use, you should disinfect your nasal cannula with an alcohol pad or swab. 

Weekly Cleaning

At least 1-2 times per week you should clean and disinfect your nasal cannula:

  • Step 1: Fill a bowl with warm or mild water mixed with disinfecting soap and half a cup of white vinegar.
  • Step 2: Allow your cannula to soak in a bowl with the solution for at least 2 minutes.
  • Step 3: Rinse your nasal cannula with water.
  • Step 4: Hang and allow to air dry completely before using again. 

After cleaning your cannula you should hang it up and allow to completely air dry before using again. These cleanings tips still apply when apart of our cannula program.


You should now have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the importance of regularly changing your nasal cannulas.

Remember, by changing your nasal cannulas every 10 days you will prevent the spreading of disease worsening germs that can lead to the common cold, flu, or even pneumonia. And as a patient with COPD, you need to do everything you can to minimize COPD exacerbations.

To help you minimize COPD exacerbations, download our ebook: 13 Simple Strategies You Can Use Today to Help You Prevent and Manage COPD Exacerbations

COPD Exacerbation E-Book

Topics: COPD, portable oxygen, Nasal Cannulas

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