How to Administer Oxygen in an Emergency Situation

Dec 13, 2022

How to Administer Oxygen in an Emergency Situation

It may be necessary to give supplemental oxygen to someone experiencing a breathing or cardiac crisis. Doing so can help improve the flow of oxygen to cells and reduce pain and discomfort associated with breathing problems. However, while emergency oxygen administration can be a lifesaving act, it’s very important to understand when and how to provide this emergency care.

If you’re wondering how to administer oxygen in an emergency situation, keep reading below for more information about when, where and how to use emergency oxygen systems.

What you need to administer oxygen

Emergency oxygen systems have several parts, including:

  • The oxygen cylinder. This provides a steady flow of oxygen to the patient.
  • A regulator and flowmeter. This device releases pressurised oxygen at a rate that is safe and effective.
  • A delivery device. These devices rest on the victim’s face and deliver the oxygen via tubing from the oxygen cylinder to the patient. Resuscitation masks, nasal cannulas and non-rebreather masks are all examples of oxygen delivery devices.

When to administer oxygen in an emergency situation

There are several indications for emergency oxygen administration. You may wish to consider administering oxygen if:

  • An adult is breathing less than 12 or more than 20 breaths per minute
  • A child is breathing less than 15 or more than 30 breaths per minute
  • An infant (aged 2 or younger) is breathing less than 25 or more than 50 breaths per minute
  • A person is not breathing

There are several medical events or conditions that may make supplemental oxygen necessary. These include emergencies such as a heart attack, stroke, ketoacidosis, seizure or asthma attack.

Oxygen is one of the most widely used drugs in emergencies; however, that doesn’t mean it’s always safe to use. Administering oxygen when the situation doesn’t call for it may lead to hyperoxemia — or elevated arterial oxygen levels — and eventually to oxygen toxicity, which may result in organ failure and even death.

Administering emergency oxygen in 4 steps

Delivering oxygen in an emergency situation can be nerve-wracking. It’s important to remain calm and collected to provide the best care to the victim. To administer emergency oxygen, follow these steps:

Step One: Prepare the cylinder

Ensure that the oxygen cylinder is ready for use. If the oxygen delivery device is not already attached to the cylinder, attach it now. You should also ensure the space around you is safe. For your own, your patient’s, and the general public’s safety, you should never use oxygen around flames, grease or oil. Ensure that the cylinder is secured to a cart or lying on its side.

Step Two: Turn the cylinder on

If you are using a variable flow-rate system, adjust the flowmeter for the type of delivery device. The flow for the nasal cannula should be between 1 to 6 litres per minute. Resuscitation masks require a flow of 6 to 15 LPM. Non-rebreather masks should use anywhere from 10 to 15 LPM, and bag-valve-mask resuscitators (BVMs) should be used with flow rates that exceed 15 LPM.

Step Three: Check the flow of oxygen

Ensure that the oxygen is flowing. You should hear a hissing sound or feel the air coming from the delivery device. Adjust the flow as necessary to best meet the patient’s needs.

Step Four: Secure the delivery device

Ensure the plastic tubing connecting the delivery device to the oxygen cylinder is connected, then place the oxygen delivery device securely on the victim’s face. Always use the delivery system according to the manufacturer’s instructions and follow all oxygen cylinder guidelines to ensure the safety of yourself, the patient and those around you.

If the victim is conscious, you may also wish to use a pulse oximeter to monitor their oxygen levels.

Oxygen delivery systems and devices for emergency care

Administering emergency oxygen can be lifesaving in certain situations; make sure you have the proper equipment on hand to provide this service to those who need it.

At Mega Medical, we carry a dedicated range of emergency oxygen and resuscitation equipment. Ideal for meeting a variety of patient requirements, our collection includes everything from delivery devices and oxygen tubing to Guedel airways. If you’re looking to completely replace your current emergency oxygen system, you can also browse our Little Red and Big Red resuscitation kits.

Have any questions about finding the right medical equipment? Our team is always happy to help — reach out to us on 1300 881 824 today.