Nasal Cannula Overview


Nasal cannulas are medical devices used when people cannot get enough oxygen to keep their body functioning optimally, whether due to a condition such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ( COPD ), another respiratory disease, or environmental changes. Nasal cannulas (and the oxygen sources they connect to) are lightweight, easy to use, and affordable. They can be used in a variety of hospital settings, at home or on the road.

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How do they work

A nasal cannula is a small, flexible tube with two split ends designed to fit inside your nostrils . The tube connects to an oxygen source and supplies a constant flow of medical oxygen to the nose.

The oxygen concentration used with nasal cannulas is relatively low, although there are high-flow cannulas; provide a signal output similar to continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) systems. Your healthcare professional will calibrate the oxygen supply to the level that suits your needs.

Nasal cannulas are less invasive than other oxygen delivery systems, most of which use a mask. In contrast, nasal cannulas generally do not interfere with normal food and speech and are quite portable.

When they are used

Using a nasal cannula means that you will have higher oxygen levels and hopefully more energy and less fatigue as you will be able to breathe better during the day and sleep better at night.

Your healthcare provider may recommend that you use a nasal cannula if you have any of the following conditions:

The nasal cannula can also be used in newborns with underdeveloped lungs (bronchopulmonary dysplasia), and also in acute cases such as heart failure, trauma or when you are at high altitude, because oxygen levels are naturally lower.

Risks and considerations

One of the side effects of using a nasal cannula is nasal dryness, which is quite common as cold, dry oxygen flows into the nostrils. However, some oxygen units are equipped with heated humidifiers or may be available as a separate mouthpiece. … Warm, humid air fights dryness.

While it is generally considered safe, there are several risks to consider before using any form of supplemental oxygen. That is, long-term use has been linked to lung damage, eye damage (from increased pressure), and a condition called pulmonary oxygen toxicity, in which there is too much oxygen in the body, which can damage the airways .

Oxygen is also highly flammable, so care must be taken not to collide with cigarettes, candles, stoves, etc.


The cost of a nasal cannula ranges from $ 20 to $ 50, depending on the length and number of disposable tubes used.

Most insurance companies and Medicare will cover nasal cannulation when there is sufficient evidence. In general, the following criteria are evaluated:

  • Your healthcare provider can show that oxygen therapy will improve your health.
  • You have severe lung disease, and oxygen can help.
  • You have arterial blood gases in a specific range.
  • Alternative measures have failed.

In these cases, insurance will likely cover the cost of the oxygen supply system, oxygen cylinders, and tubing / accessories needed to deliver the oxygen. Medicare may require you to rent oxygen equipment / systems for 36 months before continuing to provide it for up to five years.

The price includes ongoing maintenance. Contact your insurance company to discuss your personal benefits and inclusions.


Most manufacturers recommend that patients change nasal cannulas once a week for regular daily use or up to a month for sporadic use.

Cleaning the nasal cannula

You can extend the life of your cannula by taking proper care of it and rinsing it regularly. The greatest danger, if not done, is the accumulation of bacteria that can lead to infection .

Clean the cannula with an alcohol wipe after each use. If you use oxygen regularly, take a break to disinfect the cannula at least once or twice a day (or more often if you have congestion). The disease can be very dangerous for people with respiratory conditions like COPD, so you need to be vigilant.

For a more thorough cleaning, soak the tube in warm water with a little dish soap and white vinegar, which is a good bacteria killer that does not corrode the tube material.

After you have rinsed the cannula well, rinse it well with cold water to make sure all soap and bacteria are removed. Hang the cannula to dry before using it again.

Cannula replacement

Also, change the cannula every time you get sick or feel that something might fall out to avoid contact with bacteria.

Make sure you have extra supplies on hand so you can replace the cannula if needed. Be sure to check your stock of supplies and order replacements before they run out.

As always, follow your healthcare professional's instructions on how often to change your nasal cannula and how to properly care for and maintain your equipment.

Get the word of drug information

Nasal cannulation is a relatively non-invasive oxygen supply that can significantly improve your quality of life. Having enough air to breathe can significantly change your daily activities, give you more energy, and help reduce fatigue. Talk to your doctor about whether oxygen delivered through the nasal cannula is right for you and your condition.

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