Know all about Oxygen, Oxygen Cylinder and Oxygen Concentrator

By Sudheer Kumar K|Updated : May 15th, 2021

Unlike the last year, this year's intense Covid-19 second wave is leaving us gasp for breath with a shortage in medical oxygen to treat the critical COVID-19 infected patients. In this blog, we will discuss everything we need to know about oxygen, the life's breath.  

Table of Content

About Oxygen

  • Oxygen fuels all our living processes. It helps contracts our muscles, helps our cells to function, grow and regenerate, feeds and stimulates our brain, calms our nerves, helps the heart to pump, detox your blood, fights infection and strengthen the immune system.

Significance of Oxygen

  • 21% amount of oxygen in the atmosphere
  • 2,000 liters of oxygen goes into body of a healthy person every 24 hours.
  • 90% percentage of energy our body derives from oxygen; only 10% comes from food and fluid. 
  • So oxygen is essential for human existence.

Oxygen and Physiology

Lungs: The air we breath, reaches the alveoli (tiny air sacs in Lungs) to pull in oxygen and transfer it into the blood stream and also to pull out the carbon di-oxide and push it out of the lungs. Corona virus destroys these alveoli by thickening the walls so gas exchange becomes difficult.

Blood: Hemoglobin, a protein and the largest component of red blood cells (RBC), collects oxygen from lungs and releases it in tissues in order to generate the energy necessary for cell survival.

Heart: The left half of our heart receives oxygen-rich blood from your lungs and pumps it through your arteries to the rest of your body. The right side of our heart receives oxygen-poor blood from your veins and pumps it to your lungs, where it leaves the carbon di-oxide and picks up oxygen. In COVID-19, an increase in oxygen demand occurs because of compromised lungs. This can cause heart damage, especially when the arteries were already clogged.

Different Terms: SPO2, Pulse Oximeter, Oxygen Cylinder, Oxygen Concentrator & Ventilator

SPO2:  SPO2 is also known as oxygen saturation level.  (S) stands for serum, (P) pressure and (O2) oxygen. In healthy people, the body needs a minimum of 95% of oxygen in the blood to function ably. Reduction in SPO2 causes the heart’s rhythm escalates, increasing the risk of acute pulmonary cardiac arrest, there’s brain-to-body dysfunction causing restlessness, disorientation, confusion and dizziness.

In this scenario, one must consult doctor for any oxygen supplement.

Pulse Oximeter: 

  • It is a non-invasive device, which enables easy reading of SPO2. Earlier used only in health centres, but COVID has turned it into a household item. Even one low reading below 94% requires a doctor's intervention.
  • To be sure rub and warm your hands before the second reading or measure your SPO2 level with two different pulse oximeters successively. Always check on clean nail bed. Readings with artificial nails or any nail paint or colour on the surface could show error readings.
  • The readings recorded by smart wearables like the Fitbit or Apple watch may not be reliable.

Oxygen cylinder: 

  • Oxygen cylinder contain highly pure oxygen with no contamination and require refilling because finite amount of oxygen is compressed in the cylinder and is inhaled by the user as long as it lasts.
  • The cylinders come in different volumes and can be purchased against medical prescription only.
  • These are used as first aid resuscitation for emergencies and life support for those who find difficulty in breathing.

Oxygen concentrator: 

  • A device that captures and filters the ambient air
  • Instantly generates medical grade oxygen at an infinite supply so long as the battery that powers it are charged.
  • The concentrator requires no refilling, but it needs continuous supply of electricity.
  • Concentrators can be used only on approval and is suitable for moderately affected individuals with O2 saturation levels of 85%
  • These are not advisable for ICU patients who require more oxygen.
  • Any overdose of self-administered oxygen may cause harm or even death to those with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
  • Hence doctor prescription is necessary.


  • These are computerized microprocessor-controlled machines, which come in invasive and non-invasive variants.
  • Used mainly in intensive care units (ICU) and emergency wards
  • the non-invasive ventilation is required when a patient is sleeping. It employs a simple hand operated bag valve nasal mask.
  • Invasive methods are required for long-term dependence, with either nasal or trachea intubation (insertion of a tube through the nose or mouth to the airway)
  • Sever covid-19 conditions require ventilator to support breathing.


Oxygen is our life's breath, which powers our life process. However, any negligence in practicing covid-19 rules, safe practices like hand hygiene (sanitize hands frequently), respiratory hygiene (wear mask), maintain social distancing and home isolation etc. can lead to deprivation of oxygen levels (hypoxia), which can cause even death. 

Hence, prevention is better than cure. Doctors advise a diet rich in iron and vitamins helps keep our immune system strong. Foods such as broccoli, soy beans, red kidney beans, chicken, walnuts, citrus fruits, green beans, carrots help push the iron content and our hemoglobin levels and in turn uptake of oxygen. Dietary nitrates from spinach and other leafy greens, beetroot and berries help the blood vessels relax and lead to better circulation of blood and oxygen in the body.

Be Safe, Be Happy!

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