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Oxygen Therapy and Your Well-Being

Some people with interstitial lung disease (ILD) may be prescribed oxygen therapy after being assessed by a healthcare provider. For those people, oxygen therapy may allow them to be more physically active. Taking supplemental oxygen may help people with ILD feel better and get the oxygen they need today to maintain a more active lifestyle. It's important to remember that, for some, oxygen therapy may only be needed during activity, but for others, it may also be needed at rest and—possibly—during sleep.

Ensuring your body has the oxygen it needs is important. Because ILD can reduce the capacity your lungs have to deliver enough oxygen to your blood, muscles, heart, brain, and vital organs—they can become oxygen deprived, resulting in many side effects, including: added strain on your heart, worsened shortness of breath, and fatigue—keeping you from being active.

Trina Limberg

“Getting enough oxygen to all your body’s cells is essential. ILD can result in oxygen imbalances.”
Trina Limberg, Director of Pulmonary Rehabilitation at UC SD Medical Center

The Myth of Supplemental Oxygen Addiction

Oxygen therapy is a non-addictive option that helps deliver oxygen to your body when your blood oxygen levels are low. With ILD, the lung is injured in such a way that makes it hard to take a deep breath and get fresh oxygen-enriched air to all areas of the lung. Breathing in higher concentrations (or amounts) of oxygen with supplemental oxygen helps to increase your blood oxygen levels, which benefits vital organ function and helps you to be more active. If you have low blood oxygen levels and do not use supplemental oxygen, you may experience shortness of breath, fatigue, and damage to other areas of the body.

Christine Garvey

“Remember, oxygen is not addictive; it is important for life.”
Chris Garvey, FNP, MSN, MPA, MAACVPR University of California San Francisco

Easy Answers to Big Questions


What will people think?

One of the biggest challenges people can face is the stigma that is sometimes associated with ILD. People can become self-conscious when carrying around an oxygen tank or when suffering from uncontrollable symptoms, such as shortness of breath and coughing, in public.

Taking charge can make a difference

There are many ways people can learn to handle the stigma often associated with ILD and carrying oxygen in public.

  • Become an Advocate: Many people work to make a difference by using their condition to help others and to help bring awareness to ILD.
  • Join a Support Group: Joining a support group and sharing your experience with other people with ILD can make a real difference in coping with the emotions and challenges people face when living with ILD.

Whatever the challenge, it can be helpful to be outside rather than stay at home and miss out on living a full life. Fresh air, nature, socializing with other people (at a distance, when needed), and remaining active are key ingredients to maintaining a normal and fulfilling lifestyle.


Is oxygen addictive?

No; however, you may quickly realize that by using oxygen as your healthcare provider prescribes, you feel better and can do more of the activities that are important to you. Once you can see and feel the benefits, you may make the choice to continue using it as prescribed.


What is the cost of oxygen therapy?

Insurance plans vary so check with your provider, but Medicare and Medicaid may cover most costs related to your supplemental oxygen therapy, as long as your test results show that you need the oxygen. Additional costs can also be covered by your supplemental policies. Insurance coverage varies, so check with your insurance provider about your coverage. Your healthcare provider can help you choose the right company to meet your needs for supplemental oxygen.

Learn more at

Living with Oxygen

Preparing the house

When using supplemental oxygen, it’s important to prepare your house in advance. Avoid using oxygen around open flames, cigarettes, fireplaces, and heaters, and be sure to store oxygen tanks safely.

Traveling with oxygen

Today, air travel with oxygen is possible when you prepare in advance. Some people are able to carry a small, travel-size portable oxygen concentrator when they travel to make getting around easier. Plan ahead and contact your airline well in advance to ensure you meet all the requirements.

Monitoring oxygen levels

Monitoring oxygen levels with a finger oximeter can help you to see for yourself how your body functions and how you feel when your oxygen levels are above or below 90 percent. Being short of breath doesn’t always mean your oxygen levels are low—an oximeter is one way to measure oxygen levels and track reading changes with different levels of activity. Always discuss oximeter use and your oxygen prescription with your physician.

Read & Learn, Icon

Learn more about living with oxygen and how to better manage your trip with oxygen

How oxygen can help

Learn how oxygen therapy may help to manage the symptoms of IPF, a common type of ILD, from a nurse practitioner who specializes in pulmonary rehabilitation.
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