Oxygen tanks, also called oxygen cylinders, are important medical devices that dispense supplemental oxygen to patients with respiratory problems or low oxygen levels in the blood.
And because oxygen tanks are often life-saving for patients who require them, it’s crucial to know how to turn on an oxygen tank and use it correctly.
You should have received some instructions (either by a doctor or written guide) for how to use your oxygen tank. But if you have forgotten or just want to double-check, this guide is here to help.
Below we provide step-by-step instructions for how to turn on an oxygen tank and turn on the oxygen flow, as well as how to change oxygen cylinders, the safety precautions you need to be aware of, and more.
How Do Oxygen Tanks Work?
Before using an oxygen tank, it’s important to know how they work. There are various components to familiarize yourself with on oxygen tank setups, along with important procedures for how they should be used.
As the name suggests, oxygen tanks are tanks filled with oxygen. The oxygen is supplied to a patient through an oxygen task or nasal cannula (nasal tube), using an attachable regulator that sets the flow of air released from the tank.
The most important parts on an oxygen tank setup are:
- Regulator – the regulator attaches to the oxygen tank and is used to release the oxygen
- T-handle – the T-handle is used to tightly secure the regulator to the oxygen tank
- Pressure gauge – the pressure gauge is located on the regulator and displays how much oxygen is left in the tank (measured in PSI)
- Flow regulator dial – the flow regulator dial is located on the regulator and adjusts the air flow leaving the oxygen tank
- Valve – the valve is located at the top of the oxygen tank and is used to turn it on and off (using a cylinder wrench)
How To Turn On An Oxygen Tank: Step By Step
Oxygen tanks need to be used correctly for medical and safety reasons. But while turning on an oxygen tank is relatively straightforward, it’s important to ensure that you follow the right instructions and precautions.
Once you have connected a regulator to the oxygen tank, here’s how to turn the oxygen tank on in 5 simple step-by-step instructions:
- First, make sure the T-handle on the regulator is tightly fastened
- On the side of the regulator, check that the air flow dial is set to 0
- Secure your cylinder wrench to the valve at the top of the oxygen tank
- Turn the valve anti-clockwise (at least one half-turn) to turn on the oxygen tank
- Look at the pressure gauge – the needle should go up indicate how much oxygen is left in the tank
And that’s it. The oxygen tank is on and the next step is to adjust the oxygen flow using the regulator.
How To Turn On Oxygen Flow
Even if the oxygen tank is turned on at the valve, oxygen won’t be dispensed unless oxygen flow on the regulator is turned on.
Once you have turned on the oxygen tank, here’s how to turn on oxygen flow in 3 step-by-step instructions:
- First, make sure there is oxygen in the tank by checking the PSI on the regulator pressure gauge
- Connect the necessary tubing to the regulator if you are using an oxygen mask or nasal cannula
- On the side of the regulator, turn the air flow dial to a number other than 0 – or, if connected, the number prescribed by the patient’s doctor
And that’s it. The regulator’s oxygen flow is turned on and oxygen will dispense from the oxygen tank to the oxygen mask or nasal cannula, if connected.
Oxygen Tank Safety Precautions
Oxygen tanks can endanger patients if not used correctly. And while it might not seem like it, oxygen tanks can also be dangerous if not stored properly.
Firstly, always set the oxygen tank air flow to the number and duration prescribed or recommended by the patient’s doctor.
In addition, there are several oxygen tank safety precautions to be aware of, which are:
- Always store oxygen tanks in well-ventilated areas
- Always store oxygen tanks away from heat sources, such as radiators, stoves, and fireplaces
- Never light a flame in the same room as an oxygen tank
- Do not store oxygen tanks on their side in areas where they might roll around and get damaged
- Do not store oxygen tanks in high locations where they might fall and get damaged/hurt someone
Oxygen tanks can ignite fires and even cause explosions, so it’s vital to make sure that you always store oxygen tanks correctly.
When To Change Oxygen Tanks
Oxygen tanks eventually run out of oxygen, so it’s always important to check the oxygen level before and after using it – especially if you are providing medical assistance to a patient.
You can check the remaining oxygen in the oxygen tank by turning on the oxygen tank and looking at the pressure gauge on the regulator.
If the needle is in the red, it’s best to immediately replace the oxygen tank for a new one.
When To Change Oxygen Tank Tubes
Changing the tubing on an oxygen tank is not just for sanitary purposes; it’s also done to ensure that the tubing is intact (undamaged) and not hindering oxygen flow in any way.
In general, it’s best to change oxygen tank tubes every 3 to 6 months. If you’re using a nasal cannula (nasal tube), these should also be regularly changed for sanitary reasons every 2 to 4 weeks.
Turning on an oxygen tank or oxygen cylinder is relatively straightforward, thankfully, but it’s still important to follow the necessary steps and precautions to make sure the oxygen tank is working as intended for the patient.
By following the step-by-step instructions we listed above, you should have no trouble turning on an oxygen tank and using it correctly.
Just make sure to always use the oxygen tank as prescribed by a doctor, whether it’s for you or for a patient.