Best Nasal Cannula for Oxygen: Top Picks and Expert Recommendations

Nasal cannulas are essential devices for individuals who require supplemental oxygen therapy due to respiratory deficiencies. These medical tools consist of disposable tubing that transfer oxygen from a concentrator or storage cylinder directly to the patient’s nose, while allowing them to maintain mobility and comfortably go about their daily activities. With a variety of options available in the market, choosing the best nasal cannula to suit one’s needs, preferences, and medical conditions can be quite challenging.

When considering the wide range of nasal cannulas available, it is essential to keep in mind the different types and their respective benefits and risks. Some factors to take into account include prong size, fit, material, tubing length, oxygen flow rate, and the user’s comfort level. Additionally, proper maintenance and cleaning instructions should be followed to ensure the longevity of the device and minimize the potential for health issues. Apart from the nasal cannula, it is crucial to be familiar with related accessories and equipment to enhance the efficacy and convenience of the oxygen therapy.

Key Takeaways

  • Nasal cannulas are vital for those needing supplemental oxygen therapy, and several factors should be considered while selecting the best product.
  • The right type of nasal cannula depends on the individual’s specific medical condition, comfort, and oxygen flow rate requirements.
  • Regular maintenance, understanding of related equipment, and proper usage are crucial to ensure effectiveness and safety during long-term use of nasal cannulas.

Understanding Nasal Cannula

Definition and Uses

A nasal cannula is a medical device designed to deliver supplemental oxygen therapy to individuals who have lower oxygen levels. This lightweight and flexible tubing comes equipped with two prongs that fit comfortably inside a patient’s nostrils and is connected to an external oxygen source, such as a tank or container, to ensure continuous oxygen flow.

Oxygen therapy is a crucial aspect of medical treatment for patients with various respiratory-related health conditions – such as asthma, sleep apnea, COPD, or cystic fibrosis. Using a nasal cannula helps increase oxygen saturation in the blood, potentially leading to improved energy levels, reduced fatigue, and better sleep.

There are two main types of nasal cannulas – low flow and high flow. While both are designed to provide supplemental oxygen, they differ in terms of the oxygen concentration and flow rate they can deliver. Low flow nasal cannulas provide a flow rate of 1 to 6 liters per minute (L/min), whereas high-flow nasal cannula (HFNC) therapy systems have the capability to deliver up to 100% humidified and heated oxygen with a flow rate of up to 60 L/min. This allows healthcare providers to better cater to individual patient needs and achieve optimal outcomes.

The effectiveness of nasal cannulas in oxygen therapy is measured by the fraction of inspired oxygen (FiO2). For instance, normal room air has a FiO2 of 21%. Using a nasal cannula with a flow rate of 1L/min can raise the FiO2 to 24%, and increasing the flow rate to 6L/min can lead to an FiO2 of 44%.

In summary, nasal cannulas play an essential role in oxygen therapy by providing supplemental oxygen to individuals with respiratory issues. Both low flow and high flow variants offer healthcare professionals flexibility in tailoring oxygen delivery to the specific needs of their patients.

Medical Conditions and Oxygen Therapy

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

COPD is a group of lung disorders that affect the airways and cause difficulty in breathing. Supplemental oxygen is often required for patients with COPD, as it helps increase the amount of available oxygen in the blood, easing the burden on the lungs. Nasal cannulas can be an effective method for delivering this supplemental oxygen to COPD patients.

Heart Failure

Heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to pump blood efficiently, leading to a lack of oxygen in the body. Supplemental oxygen therapy helps increase the amount of oxygen in the blood, relieving stress on the heart. A nasal cannula can be used to deliver oxygen to patients with heart failure, allowing for greater mobility and comfort.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes an individual’s breathing to pause momentarily or become shallow during sleep. This can lead to a lack of sufficient oxygen reaching the blood. For some individuals, oxygen therapy delivered through a nasal cannula can help maintain adequate oxygen levels throughout the night, improving sleep quality.


Severe asthma attacks can cause a drop in oxygen levels, making it difficult for patients to breathe. In some cases, supplemental oxygen therapy might be necessary to help manage severe asthma symptoms. Nasal cannulas can effectively deliver the additional oxygen needed in these situations.


Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes that can cause coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. For individuals with chronic bronchitis experiencing difficulty breathing, supplemental oxygen therapy through a nasal cannula may provide relief and improve respiratory function.

Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disease that causes the body to produce thick, sticky mucus that can clog the lungs and lead to respiratory issues. Supplemental oxygen can help improve lung function and overall health in patients with cystic fibrosis. A nasal cannula is a practical way to deliver this essential oxygen therapy.

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer can cause various respiratory-related issues, including shortness of breath and low oxygen levels. Supplemental oxygen therapy can support lung function and improve the quality of life for some patients. Nasal cannulas can conveniently deliver oxygen to patients with lung cancer.

Pulmonary Fibrosis

Pulmonary fibrosis is a lung disorder characterized by scarring of the lung tissue, making it difficult for the lungs to function properly. Oxygen therapy may be beneficial for individuals with this condition, as it can help maintain adequate oxygen levels. A nasal cannula can be utilized to provide the necessary supplemental oxygen.


Emphysema is a lung condition characterized by damage to the air sacs in the lungs, which can cause shortness of breath. Supplemental oxygen therapy can help individuals with emphysema receive enough oxygen to meet their body’s needs. A nasal cannula is a comfortable and effective method for delivering this supplemental oxygen.

Types of Nasal Cannulas

Nasal cannulas are vital for delivering oxygen therapy to patients with respiratory deficiencies. There are different types of cannulas available to suit varying needs and oxygen delivery requirements. This section will discuss the three main types: High-Flow Nasal Cannula, Low-Flow Nasal Cannula, and Noninvasive Ventilation Cannula.

High-Flow Nasal Cannula

A high-flow nasal cannula (HFNC) is a specialized oxygen delivery system capable of providing up to 100% humidified and heated oxygen at a flow rate of up to 60 liters per minute. This type of cannula is capable of supplying higher concentrations of oxygen than a low-flow cannula. One significant advantage of HFNC is that it ensures a more consistent oxygen supply, reducing the chances of fluctuating oxygen levels for the patient. These cannulas are often used in hospital settings and for patients requiring higher levels of oxygen support.

Low-Flow Nasal Cannula

A low-flow nasal cannula (LFNC) delivers oxygen at a lower flow rate, generally up to 6 liters per minute. LFNCs are commonly used for patients who require supplemental oxygen at home or in a healthcare setting for a short duration. This type of cannula is more comfortable and less obtrusive than high-flow nasal cannulas, making them ideal for patients with milder respiratory deficiencies who do not need high concentrations of oxygen.

Noninvasive Ventilation Cannula

The noninvasive ventilation cannula is another option for oxygen therapy. These cannulas are designed for use with noninvasive ventilation systems like continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines. Noninvasive ventilation cannulas can provide a better patient experience, as they allow for more natural breathing patterns compared to classic high-flow nasal cannulas.

When selecting the appropriate nasal cannula, healthcare providers must consider the patient’s specific respiratory needs and the intended use environment, whether it be at home or in a healthcare facility. Different nasal cannulas cater to varying requirements, and choosing the right type is essential for the patient’s well-being and comfort during oxygen therapy.

Benefits and Risks of Using Nasal Cannulas


Nasal cannulas are a widely used method for providing supplemental oxygen to patients with various respiratory conditions, such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), COVID-19, cystic fibrosis, heart failure, lung cancer, pneumonia, pulmonary fibrosis, and sleep apnea. They are preferred by many healthcare providers due to their:

  • Comfort: Nasal cannulas are lightweight and designed for comfort while wearing for extended periods.
  • Ease of use: They can be easily placed and adjusted on the patient without causing discomfort or obstructions in breathing.
  • Affordability: They are relatively inexpensive compared to other oxygen delivery methods.


Despite the advantages, there are a few limitations to using nasal cannulas:

  • Limited oxygen flow: Nasal cannulas can provide only a limited flow of oxygen, usually up to 6 liters per minute. In comparison, high-flow nasal cannulas can deliver oxygen at a flow rate of up to 60 liters per minute.
  • Nasal dryness: They can cause dryness in the nasal passages due to constant airflow, which may result in discomfort and irritation for some patients.
  • Inadequate support: In some cases, nasal cannulas might not provide enough oxygen support for patients with more severe respiratory conditions.

Potential Risks

While nasal cannulas are a generally safe oxygen delivery method, there might be some risks associated with their use:

  • Abdominal distension: Using a nasal cannula might cause abdominal distension due to the air being swallowed while breathing, particularly in children or individuals receiving higher oxygen flow rates.
  • Skin irritation: Prolonged use of nasal cannulas can lead to skin irritation and pressure sores around the nose due to the tubing, especially for patients with sensitive skin.
  • Infection: Improper cleaning or use of nasal cannulas can increase the risk of infection, making it important for patients and healthcare providers to follow proper hygiene and replacement guidelines.

How to Choose the Best Nasal Cannula


When selecting a nasal cannula, comfort should be a top priority. Most cannulas come in three basic sizes: adult, pediatric, or infant. The shape of the nasal prong can also vary from curved to straight and tapered to flare, which can impact the overall comfort for the user. To ensure the best possible experience, consider trying different shapes and sizes to find one that fits comfortably and securely.

Flow Rate

Flow rate is another crucial factor when choosing a nasal cannula. High-flow nasal cannula (HFNC) therapy is capable of delivering up to 100% humidified and heated oxygen at a flow rate of up to 60 liters per minute. It is essential to pair the cannula with an appropriate flow rate for your oxygen therapy needs. Consult with your healthcare provider to determine the optimal flow rate for your situation.

Material Quality

The material quality of a nasal cannula plays a role in both comfort and durability. It is common for cannulas to be made of plastic materials, such as PVC or silicone. Lightweight, high-quality materials can help reduce irritation and ensure a longer lifespan for the device. Companies like Medline are known for producing durable and comfortable nasal cannulas.


Lastly, design can make a significant difference in the overall experience when using a nasal cannula. Features like tubing length, overall design, and ease of use are important to consider. Look for designs that are easy to clean and maintain, as well as those that include secure fittings and comfortable nasal prongs. By taking all these factors into account, you can find the best nasal cannula for your oxygen therapy needs.

Maintenance and Cleaning Instructions

Disinfecting the cannula

It’s vital to regularly disinfect your nasal cannula to avoid bacterial buildup and ensure proper oxygen delivery. Cleaning your cannula should generally be done at least once per week, but it might be required more frequently depending on its condition and as per your doctor’s advice. To clean your cannula, follow these steps:

  1. Prepare a mild cleaning solution: Mix 10 parts water with one part vinegar ^5^.
  2. Disconnect the nasal cannula from the oxygen supply.
  3. Soak the cannula in the cleaning solution for about 20-30 minutes.
  4. Thoroughly rinse the cannula with clean water to remove any residual solution.
  5. Allow the cannula to air dry properly before reconnecting it to the oxygen supply.

For daily maintenance, you can wipe down the prongs and the tubing with an alcohol swab once a day. If you’re using oxygen 24/7, it’s recommended to have a spare cannula for use while the other is being cleaned and dried.

Handling Power Outages

Power outages can be a concern for those who rely on oxygen therapy, but with proper preparation and precautions, you can manage these situations effectively. Follow these tips to handle power outages:

  • Backup oxygen supply: Keep a portable oxygen cylinder or a backup portable oxygen concentrator on hand in case of a power outage. Ensure they are always fully charged or have enough oxygen supply to last until the power is restored.
  • Battery backups: Invest in extra batteries or a battery-powered backup system for your oxygen concentrator. This will provide you with an uninterrupted oxygen supply during a temporary power outage.
  • Emergency plan: Develop an emergency plan with your healthcare provider or oxygen equipment supplier. Include information on alternative power sources, emergency contacts, and evacuation procedures if necessary.
  • Notify utility companies: Inform your utility company and local emergency services that you rely on oxygen equipment. They may be able to prioritize restoring power to your area or provide additional assistance during an outage.

Remember to always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for maintaining and cleaning your nasal cannula and oxygen therapy equipment. Regularly consult with your healthcare provider to ensure you are getting the most effective and safe oxygen therapy.

Long Term Use of Nasal Cannula

Living with Oxygen Therapy

Long-term use of nasal cannula for home oxygen therapy can significantly improve the quality of life for patients with compromised respiratory health. Supplemental oxygen often becomes necessary for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), interstitial lung disease (ILD), or other respiratory conditions. Nasal cannula, being a lightweight and unobtrusive device, plays a vital role in providing oxygen support to these patients.

A nasal cannula is a flexible tube that rests on the upper lip and has two prongs that fit into the nostrils, delivering oxygen directly into the patient’s airway1. With a prescription from a healthcare provider, patients can use the device daily to manage their respiratory needs. The device offers various flow rates, adjustable according to the patient’s requirements, ensuring optimal oxygen delivery and comfort.

Adapting to life with long-term oxygen therapy may initially be challenging, but it is essential for maintaining the patient’s overall health and well-being. By making minor adjustments to their daily routine, patients can carry on with their usual activities with ease. It is crucial for patients to maintain proper hygiene; regularly cleaning and replacing their nasal cannula can prevent infections and maintain the quality of oxygen delivery1. Additionally, using a humidifier alongside the oxygen concentrator can help prevent nasal dryness and irritation caused by frequent oxygen use.

Regular communication with a healthcare provider can also help ensure that the patient’s oxygen therapy remains well-suited to their needs2. The healthcare provider can assess the patient’s progress, suggest any necessary changes to the flow rate, and prescribe replacement cannulas as required.

In summary, long-term use of nasal cannula for home oxygen therapy provides a significant improvement in patients’ quality of life by ensuring they receive the necessary oxygen support. With proper care and communication with healthcare providers, patients can adapt to living with oxygen therapy and manage their respiratory conditions more efficiently.

Accessories and Related Equipments

Portable Oxygen Concentrators

Portable oxygen concentrators (POCs) are essential devices for those who require supplemental oxygen while on the go. These devices are compact, lightweight, and highly convenient to use, allowing users to maintain an active lifestyle. POCs work by extracting oxygen from the ambient air, concentrating it, and delivering it to the user through a nasal cannula. They can operate on battery power, making them ideal for travel and outdoor activities.

There are several models available, with varying features such as flow rate, battery life, and size. When choosing a portable oxygen concentrator, it’s essential to consider factors such as individual oxygen requirements, the frequency of use, and lifestyle needs.


Humidifiers can be a valuable accessory for those using supplemental oxygen. Dry or irritated nasal passages may result from the continuous flow of oxygen through the nasal cannula, which may be uncomfortable for the user. Incorporating a humidifier into the oxygen therapy system adds moisture to the oxygen, helping to reduce dryness and irritation.

Some oxygen concentrators may come with built-in humidifiers, while others may require the addition of an external humidification system. These external systems typically consist of a humidification chamber filled with water, which is connected to the oxygen source and cannula.

In summary, portable oxygen concentrators and humidifiers are essential accessories for those using nasal cannulas for oxygen therapy. They contribute to greater convenience, comfort, and overall effectiveness of the oxygen therapy, helping users achieve better quality of life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which nasal cannula is ideal for sleep?

The ideal nasal cannula for sleep should be comfortable, lightweight, and provide minimal interference during the night. Additionally, it’s important to have a secure fit to avoid dislodging while you sleep. One of the top recommended nasal cannulas for sleep is the Drive-DeVilbiss due to their comfortable design and effectiveness in oxygen delivery.

What are the various types of oxygen cannulas?

There are two main types of nasal cannulas: low flow and high flow. Low flow cannulas are designed for people who require a lower oxygen flow rate, usually between 1-6 liters per minute (LPM). High flow nasal cannulas, on the other hand, deliver oxygen at higher flow rates, typically above 6 LPM. Both types can be used for various medical conditions like COPD, pneumonia, and sleep apnea, depending on the patient’s specific needs and oxygen requirements.

How can nasal cannulas be made more comfortable?

To make nasal cannulas more comfortable, try the following:

  • Adjust the fit of the nasal prongs to ensure they fit snugly but not too tightly in your nostrils.
  • Tape the tubing to your cheeks to minimize rubbing and irritation.
  • Use a cannula with soft, flexible prongs that easily conform to the shape of your nostrils.
  • Consider a cannula with an adjustable headpiece to prevent the tubing from slipping or getting tangled during sleep.

What is the recommended oxygen flow rate for nasal cannulas?

The oxygen flow rate for a nasal cannula varies depending on the individual’s specific needs and medical condition. Generally, low flow cannulas are used for flow rates between 1-6 LPM, while high flow cannulas have rates above 6 LPM. Always consult your healthcare provider for the appropriate flow rate tailored to your specific situation.

Are there alternatives to traditional oxygen cannulas?

Yes, there are alternatives to traditional nasal cannulas. One such alternative is the transtracheal oxygen delivery method, which involves surgically placing a small catheter directly into the trachea for oxygen delivery. Another option is the use of an oxygen mask, which covers the mouth and nose. These alternatives may be more suitable for certain conditions or if the patient cannot tolerate a nasal cannula.

How should a nasal cannula be properly worn?

To properly wear a nasal cannula, follow these steps:

  1. Ensure your hands are clean by washing them thoroughly.
  2. Place the prongs inside your nostrils, with the curved parts pointing downwards.
  3. Loop the cannula tubing over your ears and adjust the slider under your chin for a secure fit.
  4. Connect the other end of the tubing to your oxygen source, and set the flow rate as prescribed by your healthcare provider.
  5. Breathe through your nose normally, making sure the oxygen is flowing through the cannula.


  1. Cleveland Clinic – Nasal Cannula: Oxygen, Flow Rate, Benefits & How To Use 2

  2. WebMD – Nasal Cannula: What It Is and When To Use One

The team at are experts when it comes to oxygen concentrators. We are dedicated to providing as much help as we can for people who are undergoing oxygen therapy and need help with oxygen concentrators. We research and immerse ourselves in the industry and are assisted by our team of medical experts.

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