COVID-19: Understanding the difference between oxygen concentrator and oxygen cylinder


It has been a year since the COVID-19 outbreak happened, but at this point, the country is experiencing the worst phase which accounts for the second wave. With over four lakh cases being reported daily over the past few days, the second wave has hit India like a storm.

“While more than 1.36 crore people have recovered, over 24 lakh people are still struggling, with some of them getting treatment at the hospitals, while some are under home isolation,” shared Dr Tushar Tayal, department of internal medicine, CK Birla Hospital, Gurgaon.

There has been an increased demand for oxygen because of a spike in the number of severe COVID-19 cases. While a large population is queuing up outside hospital premises, there are several patients who are getting themselves treated at home, breathing with the help of oxygen concentrators and cylinders.

“Concentrators work like an oxygen cylinder, supplying oxygen through the use of masks or nasal tubes. However, cylinders need refilling, while oxygen concentrators can work 24×7 using electricity,” explained Dr Tayal.

There are two types of oxygen concentrators. These are namely continuous flow and pulse. While a continuous flow oxygen concentrator provides the same flow of oxygen in a minute until it’s been turned off, pulse dose identifies the patient’s breathing pattern and gives out oxygen when it detects inhalation.

“Oxygen concentrators are portable and easy-to-carry alternatives to massive cylinders,” added the doctor. However, one needs to take note that the concentrators are not the best option for those suffering from severe comorbidities and complications because they can only provide 5-10 litres of oxygen per minute, which may not be enough for patients who have severe complications.

“Oxygen support can be initiated either with an oxygen cylinder or oxygen concentrator when the oxygen saturation drops below 92 per cent” said Dr Tayal.

Click here to know how can you maintain oxygen levels when in home isolation?

However, in case of worsening clinical condition with fall in saturation despite oxygen support, the patient should be immediately hospitalised, he said.

Tips to be rigorously followed to ensure safety:

*Continue to wear masks properly

*Avoid crowded places

*Avoid badly ventilated or closed spaces

*Maintain hand hygiene. Frequently use sanitiser and/or soap and water

*Avoid touching eyes, mouth, nose with unwashed hands

*Observe proper social distancing norms

*Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces

*Seek psychological support for stress or anxiety

It is recommended and encouraged that eligible people must get themselves vaccinated as soon as possible and in case of any doubts, please reach out to a medical expert.

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