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Essential for life. Hazardous to health?

By Pam West

Oxygen might not seem dangerous since it is all around us in the air we breathe. In fact, oxygen therapy has saved many lives. It is often the first intervention given in many life-or-death situations. It increases the oxygen to the lungs, which in turn feeds body tissues. Oxygen therapy is usually safe, but it is necessary to follow established medical protocol and facility policies to ensure it is performed properly.

The elements of oxygen therapy

Room air only contains 21 percent oxygen, and increasing the percentage of oxygen in the breathing gas increases the amount of oxygen in the blood. It is often only required to raise the percentage of oxygen delivered to between 30 and 35 percent. This is done through use of a nasal cannula. When 100 percent oxygen is needed, it may be delivered via a tight-fitting face mask. The following are the main sources for oxygen therapy.

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