It is difficult for anyone to navigate through these times. There are many questions we ask ourselves daily: is it safe for me to go to work, to visit my family, run to the grocery store? What kind of mask should I wear? Did I wash my hands long enough? For someone living with COPD the list of questions expands: am I inhaling the coronavirus through my POC if I’ve been exposed to an infected person? It is hard for me to breathe in general. Do I need to wear a mask? In this article, we will do our best to answer the questions we’ve received from our customers who are concerned about using a portable oxygen concentrator during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please keep in mind that there is not one correct, universal answer. You should always check with your doctor about your safest option.
Is it Safe to Use a POC During the COVID-19 Pandemic?
Many of our oxygen therapy users are wondering whether they are inhaling the coronavirus with their portable oxygen concentrators if they have been exposed to an infected person. Precision Medical’s portable oxygen concentrators have been designed and tested to filter out particulates in the air such as dust and droplets. The Live Active Five, for example, has four different filters air goes through before reaching the patient. These filters are put in place to protect the unit’s sieve beds from moisture and the patient from bacteria. However, portable oxygen concentrators are not designed to be air purification systems. This means that a person using a POC has the same chance of being exposed to an airborne virus as any other person. You can absolutely wear a POC as long as you take all the necessary safety precautions, such as practicing social distance and wearing a mask. Keep in mind, you are still drawing in air through your nose and mouth, with or without a POC. Wearing a mask will add a layer of protection. Make sure you also properly clean your nasal cannula and change it more often than usual.
Should I Wear a Mask While Using Oxygen Therapy?
The CDC recommends wearing a face mask whenever you are in public. It is not as simple to wear a mask for people on oxygen therapy, which often requires the use of a nasal cannula. If you or someone you know has COPD and is struggling with the idea of wearing a mask, keep in mind that people with lung conditions are at a very high risk for COVID-19 complications. Try on different masks to see which is most comfortable for you. Look for masks made out of breathable fabrics and ones that have bendable edges for a better fit around your nasal cannula. If you can not find one that properly fits you, make your own! Have a few masks so you do not reuse the same mask without properly cleaning it in between uses. Always make sure to sanitize your hands before putting on and taking off a mask.
I Have COPD. What Else Can I Do to Stay Safe?
Make only necessary public trips and keep them short. Shorter trips in public spaces reduces the potential exposure time. Do not touch your face or mask when in public! When you leave your home, you probably will touch multiple public surfaces, such as doorknobs, shopping charts and self check-out registers. If you can refrain from touching your face until you can properly wash or sanitize your hands after being out in public, you can reduce your risk of contracting the virus. And as you’ve heard numerous times by now, practice social distancing. Never put yourself in a social setting where people are not wearing masks. Remember, your mask protects me, and my mask protects you. Although most states are reopening, there is still a high level of risk for people with COPD. You should refrain from participating in any large gatherings and social activities for the remainder of the year. Instead, utilize social media, video chatting services, and the telephone to keep in touch with loved one.
COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus and has not been studied prior to this pandemic. The recommendations are updated frequently as the medical community continues to learn more. Stay in the know by checking the websites of the CDC and WHO. If you have any specific questions regarding the recommendations and how they relate to your situation, contact your doctor to discuss the best course of action.