Under the category of “hard to believe” are the concerns over patients who suffer burns while using home oxygen therapy. Oxygen, itself, does not burn but it does support combustion, which means if there is a fire and you spray it with oxygen the fire will burn faster and hotter. Why are these patients getting burned? THEY ARE SMOKING WHILE USING THEIR OXYGEN! This type of injury and the unbelievable cause is becoming a frequent occurrence. One center has reported that patients with burns associated with home oxygen therapy and their smoking make up 4% of their annual admissions.
Most of the burns are on the face, and associated with the nasal cannula which delivers the oxygen to the nose. However, some patients do experience more severe burns, and most unbelievable of all is that there are a goodly number of patients that are repeat offenders and have had multiple episodes of burns. What does this say about the addictive nature of cigarette smoking? The problem of patients smoking while receiving oxygen therapy is causing some to say that patients who smoke should not have oxygen therapy prescribed. In fact, there are some who are saying that medications as well as oxygen therapy should not be given to patients who continue to smoke. These comments are based on the premise that all of these therapies are expensive and should not be wasted on those who will not help themselves.
I do not agree with this philosophy, but I am not the only voice. Smokers beware!