3 Tips for Living with Oxygen Tanks in Your Home

High-flow oxygen is the standard of care and most effective treatment for cluster headaches. While you may picture a sweet old lady trailing a small oxygen tank behind her at the grocery store, that is not my reality. The higher flow rate means I go through one of those tiny "E" tanks in about 45 minutes. My oxygen tank is a behemoth weighing 40 to 50 pounds. This four- to five-foot cistern lives next to my bed during cluster headache cycles and in my closet for the rest of the year. 

I have lived with oxygen tanks in my home since 2014. While the high flow is safe and effective for my head pain, it requires some lifestyle changes. Here are my tips for living around oxygen tanks.

Tip #1

No open flames in the room. The room where you store your oxygen tanks should not have lit candles or open flames. Many cluster headache patients are smokers, so this can be a challenge. Sometimes, a cigarette just hits the spot after 90 minutes of a sledgehammer hitting the right side of your head. Nevertheless, step outside before you light up, especially if you just finished using your oxygen tank.

Tip #2

Hang a sign for emergency personnel. The first time the oxygen delivery person came to my home felt like Christmas. The colossal tank and six smaller tanks (for use on the go) were my saving grace. After I signed the pink slip and paid the bill, the delivery guy handed me a sheet to put on my apartment door. The sign said something like "Oxygen in Use," with a few icons indicating no flames around the tanks or door.

These signs are not to pique the attention of your nosy neighbors. Firefighters and emergency medical services need to know if there is oxygen in your home because it poses a hazard and may change how they address the situation.

Tip #3

Careful storage. My little family of oxygen tanks lives in the laundry room closet for most of the year. I have a frame that secures six "E" tanks in place, preventing them from falling. The "big guy" has its own stand. My masks and regulators are neatly packed away in a bag. Carefully storing my full oxygen tanks stops them from clanging together or bumping into something that may damage the tank. I learned this the hard way when I dropped a small tank on its top, shooting a high-powered stream of air four feet to the side. 

Using oxygen for cluster headaches can be complicated. You need the correct flow rate, a nonrebreather mask, and a regulator that goes up to 15 liters per minute. However, the safety aspect is straightforward.

Learn more about how to use oxygen to abort a cluster headache attack.

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