People who have COPD often have a device or two that help with their breathing. My mom has four:
- Her oxygen concentrator
- Her liquid oxygen reservoir
- Her portable Helios oxygen tank
- Her nebulizer
Each one has various parts and attachments that need regular maintenance to stay relatively germ-free and functioning properly. So I thought I’d provide a checklist of things you should do to keep both you and your COPD equipment as healthy as possible.
Oxygen concentrators are electronic machines that extract pure oxygen from room air and transport it to your lungs via tubing and either a nasal cannula or face mask. Because oxygen, especially at higher flow rates, is extremely drying, the tubing is usually directed through a water bottle before reaching your person.
It’s important to clean out the water bottle with warm water each time you refill it and to give it a good wash with a bleach solution at least weekly. And because plastic degrades over time, replace the water bottle every month or two.
You should also replace your oxygen tubing and nasal cannula monthly or whenever you notice the plastic getting darker, more opaque and/or brittle.
Finally, concentrators have a foam dust filter somewhere on their exterior. Be sure to take that off and clean it off frequently. It can also be washed more thoroughly, using a bleach solution. Be sure to let it dry completely before putting it back in place on the machine.
Liquid Oxygen Reservoirs
These are the big silver tanks that hold oxygen and are usually used when people first go on oxygen. They also have water bottles to humidify the oxygen and tubing that carries this precious gas to your airways.
Like the concentrator parts, be sure to clean the bottle regularly and to change out the tubing every month or so.
Helios Portable Tanks
Change out your tubing and nasal cannula on your Helios tank whenever you notice it getting brittle or stiff or changing color.
Also, if your tank gets dirty from being outside or setting down on floors, etc., you can wash it off with a damp cloth, as needed. I wouldn’t advise using soap or any kind of cleaning solution though.
Nebulizers are machines that convert liquid medicine in suspension into aerosol droplets that can be inhaled into the lungs. They use compressed air, ultrasonic power or even oxygen to do this.
The medicine is poured into a small plastic cup that attaches to the machine via tubing and that has a mouthpiece you inhale from. This apparatus that attaches to the machine also needs to be replaced periodically.
Most nebulizers come with a semi-permanent apparatus, which can be washed with warm water and soap, as well as bleach solutions. This should be done at least once a week, though the tubing and cup should be thoroughly rinsed after every use.
Insurance coverages may vary, but most insurers will pay for a whole new apparatus at least a couple of times a year.
An alternative is to use a more disposable type of apparatus, which can be replaced every month or so. But even those should be rinsed thoroughly after every use.
Talk with your supplier to learn more about the individual recommendations for your particular nebulizer and to find out how often your insurer will pay to replace the tubing apparatus.
All equipment functions better with proper maintenance. So be sure you give your COPD equipment the proper care and attention and it will help keep you healthier in the long run.
Kathi is an experienced consumer health education writer, with a prior career in nursing that spanned more than 30 years — much of it in the field of home health care. Over the past 15 years, she’s been an avid contributor for a number of consumer health websites, specializing in asthma, allergy, and COPD. She writes not only as a healthcare professional, but also as a lifelong sufferer of severe allergies and mild asthma, and as a caregiver for her mother with COPD.