The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released a new consumer update warning users not to try to treat COVID-19 with a special medical device at home. Home oxygen machines are used to treat a variety of respiratory problems that require oxygen therapy at home. Complications of COVID-19 may include severe respiratory failure and may require oxygen therapy, but the FDA believes this should be performed in a hospital setting.
Patients with COVID-19 asymptomatic or mild illness usually recover within two weeks, and most of them do not require hospitalization. But with the number of COVID-19 cases per day in the United States at a record high, some health systems will inevitably be overwhelmed. Even though current COVID-19 therapies can save more lives than they did in March and April, some patients may need to stay in hospital for weeks to recover from COVID-19 complications and leave oxygen and ventilators. But the FDA now warns that PATIENTs with COVID-19 should not attempt to use medical devices at home to treat COVID-19 respiratory complications, as the process may do more harm than good.
The agency recently released a consumer update on its website about home oxygen machines and pulse oxydometers. The latter is well known and used in families to track oxygen saturation, especially after contracting the new coronavirus. Home oxygen machines are medical devices that some people start to discover when they are looking for ways to manage their illness at home. They are machines that filter nitrogen from the air in the room and provide more oxygen to patients. Many people suffer from chronic diseases and need oxygen therapy at home. This device can help them breathe and is part of their normal life.
However, people who need to use oxygen machines at home should have a prescription from their attending physician when using these devices. The FDA warns that people should not try to use machines at home to treat respiratory failure caused by COVID-19.
You should not use an oxygen machine at home unless it has been prescribed by a health care provider. It may do more harm than good to give yourself oxygen without first discussing it with your doctor. You may end up consuming too much or too little oxygen. Deciding to use an oxygen machine without a prescription can lead to serious health problems, such as oxygen poisoning caused by receiving too much oxygen. It can also lead to delayed treatment for serious diseases such as COVID-19.
Although oxygen accounts for about 21% of the air around us, breathing high concentrations of oxygen can damage your lungs. On the other hand, not getting enough oxygen into the bloodstream, a condition called hypoxia, can damage the heart, brain and other organs.
The agency recommends that people check with their health care provider for advice on oxygen therapy. It’s not just a prescription for properly operating an oxygen machine. Users should be aware of the additional risks of operating this device- In its warning, the FDA said:
Do not use an oxygen machine or any oxygen product when approaching an open flame or smoking;
Place the oxygen machine in an open place to reduce the chance of the equipment malfunctioning due to overheating;
Do not block any vents on the oxygen machine as it may affect the performance of the equipment;
Check your device regularly for any alarms to make sure you get enough oxygen;
The FDA also noted that it has not approved or removed any oxygen machines sold online or used without a prescription. A full consumer consultation is available at this link.