For those who have been diagnosed as needing oxygen therapy for COPD, CPAP treatment of severe sleep apnea, emphysema, and other respiratory diseases, the oxygen concentrator is one of the most important devices. It's the patient's lifeline both at home and on the go as it provides an enhanced quality of life. Patients live longer. Exercise is often easier because oxygen reaches the muscles better. Oxygen also helps reverse the long-term effects of its deficiency on the heart. It's also known to reduce sleep disruption, improve concentration, mood, and memory levels.
What is needed in order to buy a portable oxygen concentrator?
A physician's prescription is mandatory. It is federally illegal for anyone to sell or rent medical grade oxygen without a valid, signed prescription. These portable oxygen generators are regulated by the FDA and the FAA.
Many patients are unhappy to wait on the phone or in their doctor's office for their prescription or to arrange to have it faxed. However, very often, the portable oxygen concentrator's supplier can contact the physician on the patient's behalf and complete the required paperwork.
Making the purchase
It is crucial that the oxygen concentrator is purchased from an authorized dealer that carries devices from well-established manufacturers. Working with an authorized dealer will ensure you can get your machine serviced and it will also ensure your manufacturer's warranty is valid. It isn't advised to purchase portable oxygen concentrators from questionable sources such as online auction websites. The warranties and support may be non-existent and the device could not be what is represented by the seller.
Reliable dealers will accept credit cards, checks, cash, and very often PayPal for payments.
Taking to the skies?
In the past, patients have been cumbered with heavy oxygen tanks that restricted their activities. Today's patients are emphatically clear that they want a unit that they can travel with: this means air travel, not just car, bus, or train.
Patients should look for units that are FAA-approved with these features:
- They are lightweight and easier and safer to travel with.
- They provide enough oxygen for the specific journeys taken.
- Battery life is rapidly improving. There are currently portable concentrators that can supply up to 15 hours of oxygen on battery power alone.
It should be noted that the FAA only has jurisdiction on flights originating in the United States. If a patient is taking an international flight, they should check with their travel agent about the laws in the destination country.
Airlines will also have their own polices about stowing and storing concentrators, so it's wise to be familiar before a flight.
There will be parts of the concentrator that will need care and upkeep. These include foam filters that should be cleaned weekly and replaced yearly. Other accessories are:
- the carrying case
- lithium ion battery
- AC adapter
- DC adapter
The cost of a portable oxygen concentrator will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer so it pays to research the numerous models available. Physicians will also be able to recommend particular models as will the device dealers.
All in all, the bottom line is that a patient cannot put a price on the air they breathe, no matter what the cost, when the benefits far outweigh those costs.