Going Home on Oxygen

Taking a Child Home with Nasal Cannula Oxygen



Why does my child need to go home with oxygen?

Some children will need oxygen at home to help them to breathe easier and to gain weight. You should talk with your baby’s nurses and doctors to make sure you know why your baby needs oxygen. You should know how much oxygen your baby needs and when to use it. At home your baby will receive oxygen through a nasal cannula like the one used in the hospital.


How do I keep the nasal cannula in the right position on my baby’s face?

First, place a small piece of skin barrier on each cheek. Then put the nasal cannula in the right position with the opening at the nose and the tubing coming back across the cheeks. Tape the tubing to the skin barrier on each cheek. When the tape or skin barrier becomes loose retape it as soon as possible. Having someone help you with the retaping will make it easier. Check the position of the cannula every day and retape it if it is not in correct position. Also, you need to check the opening every day to make sure it is not plugged.


If my baby looks fine when off the oxygen may I stop using it?

No, your baby may not turn blue when off the oxygen but may still need it to keep the brain and body healthy and to gain weight. You should not change the oxygen settings unless told to do so by your doctor.


How will I know when my baby does not need the oxygen or when the oxygen can be lowered?

Your baby will have regular visits with the doctor. During these visits the doctor will do blood and/or sat monitor tests to see what your baby’s oxygen needs are. Sometimes experts from the oxygen supply company will do the sat monitor tests at home and send the results to your doctor. The test results and weight gain patterns will show the doctor when it is time to lower or stop the oxygen.


What will my baby look like if he/she is having a hard time breathing?

If your baby is having a hard time breathing he/she may breathe faster or harder. You may see that your baby is tugging in around the ribs. The nailbed color, lips, or skin around the mouth may not be as pink as usual. You may see the nostrils flaring outward. The baby may look pale or blue and might be more quiet or fussy than usual.

Your baby may have a harder time breathing when feeding or playing. These activities require more oxygen. If the baby does start to breathe harder stop the activity. Let the baby rest until their color becomes normal. Then start the feeding or playtime again.

If you notice that your baby is breathing harder or faster check to make sure that the nasal cannula opening is pointed upward at the nose. Be sure the opening is clean and not plugged. Check to make sure the tubing is connected to the oxygen tank and that the tubing is not twisted or kinked. Make sure that there is oxygen in the tank and that the baby is getting the right amount of oxygen. If your baby has rested and you have checked all the equipment and your baby is still breathing hard, call your doctor or nearest emergency room.


How can I plan for an emergency?

  • Watch the CPR video in NICU, and take a community CPR class.
  • Post the CPR steps on your baby’s crib and practice them on a doll often.
  • Call your local A & E Dept, electric company, telephone company, and fire department and tell them about your baby’s condition and when he/she will be coming home.
  • Post your address and all emergency numbers, including the number of the oxygen supply company, by your telephone.


How do I get the oxygen to my home?

Before leaving the hospital a discharge coordinator will let an oxygen supply company know about your baby’s condition and when he/she will be coming home. The company will then call you and set up a meeting with you at your home. An expert in home oxygen will bring several small and large oxygen tanks and other equipment to this meeting. They will teach you everything you need to know about this equipment and answer all of your questions.

Make sure to bring one of the small oxygen tanks with you for the ride home when you pick up your baby from the hospital. The discharge nurse will help you set up the oxygen and give you a 24 hour phone number to call if you have questions or problems.


What do I have to know about home safety with oxygen?

Oxygen is a fire hazard. It is important to post NO SMOKING signs in any room where there is oxygen. Keep the oxygen tank and baby’s bed at least five feet away from any heater or fireplace.
Keep the oxygen tanks standing up. Do not use alcohol, Vaseline, or sprays near the baby and oxygen. Avoid smoking, fire, or sparks near the baby and oxygen.


What do I need to know about the equipment?

Gaseous versus liquid varies by company. The company and medical staff will instruct on use of the equipment.


Will I be able to leave the house with my baby?

Yes. The oxygen supply company will give you a small oxygen tank which can be pushed on wheels or carried on your shoulder with a strap. They will tell you how long you can use each small tank. If your baby still needs oxygen when beginning to crawl you will be given a 50 foot long oxygen tube so that your baby will be able to move around the house freely.


Will anyone be helping me and my baby at home?

Yes. The oxygen supply company will arrange to visit your home to change the filters etc but should you have any queries or concerns please contact your paediatrician, local Accident and Emergency Dept, NICU or the oxygen supply company.



CPR – abbreviation for cardiopulmonary resuscitation emergency actions to help people who have choked or stopped breathing.

Nasal Cannula – a soft, small plastic tube that fits around a baby’s head with an opening at the nose. This tube is attached to an oxygen tank and delivers oxygen for a baby to breathe.

Oxygenation Saturation Monitor – used by doctors, hospitals, and oxygen supply companies to test the level of oxygen in the body; uses a soft, light-probe-taped to the skin; is not a blood test and does not hurt.

Regulator – a type of monitor that is attached to a tank has gauges which show levels of oxygen in the tank and amounts being delivered to the baby through the cannula.

Skin Barrier – a thin, gentle, adhesive covering for skin that protects the baby’s skin from tape.