As you ascend to higher elevations, the air becomes thinner, and the oxygen available for breathing decreases. Those not properly prepared for this change can find themselves out of breath, winded, and at risk for altitude sickness. In fact, altitude sickness affects 25% to 85% of people traveling to altitudes of 8,000 feet or higher.
To minimize the risks that come with traveling to high altitudes, many travelers turn to portable oxygen concentrators. These devices filter out nitrogen and other impurities from the atmosphere and deliver a concentrated stream of oxygen to the user. This helps reduce the discomfort associated with altitude sickness, allowing people to enjoy their vacations fully.
But how do you get the most out of your oxygen concentrator at higher elevations? Here’s everything you need to know.
Types of Portable Oxygen Concentrators
Before using an oxygen concentrator at higher altitudes, it’s important to ensure you have the right type of device. There are two main types of portable oxygen concentrators: continuous flow and pulse dose. Let’s breakdown both:
Continuous Flow Concentrators
This machine offers a steady flow of enriched oxygen set by a flow rate of liters per minute (LPM). This type of concentrator is typically used for long-term oxygen therapy and can be adjusted to raise or lower the LPM as needed.
Continuous flow oxygen concentrators work best for users when they are sleeping as it is more gradual and efficient.
Pulse Dose Concentrators
This type of oxygen concentrator offers a burst of oxygen when the user inhales, providing them with a higher concentration of oxygen as they take in each breath.
Pulse dose oxygen concentrators are more lightweight and compact than continuous flow concentrators, making them ideal for travelers. As a result, they work best for active users and those who find they need more oxygen while engaging in physical activity.
Why is Altitude a Factor for Oxygen Concentrators?
Now, you may be wondering why altitude is such a key factor when it comes to oxygen concentrators. After all, oxygen is oxygen regardless of where it’s found.
That’s true – but at higher altitudes, the air contains less oxygen due to the lack of atmospheric pressure. This means that the same amount of oxygen your portable concentrator would deliver at sea level just won’t be as effective at higher altitudes. So, if you’re planning on traveling to a higher elevation, you’ll need to make sure your oxygen concentrator is up to the task.
Things to Remember When Using Oxygen Concentrators at High Altitudes
Now, let’s go over the best practices for using your portable oxygen concentrator in higher altitudes. These five tips will help you maximize the device’s potential and ensure you won’t experience any adverse effects from the thin air:
1. Ensure the Device is in Good Condition
Before you take your portable oxygen concentrator to higher altitudes, make sure it’s in top shape. This means checking for any leaks or damages, as well as making sure all of the filters are clean and free from any obstructions. If you find any issues with your device, get it repaired before bringing it on the trip.
Many travelers opt to rent an oxygen concentrator for their trip instead of bringing their own. This is a great option, as it ensures you’ll have access to the latest technology and a device that’s been properly maintained and tested before use.
2. Monitor Your Oxygen Levels
When you’re using a portable oxygen concentrator at high altitudes, it’s important to monitor your oxygen levels closely. A pulse oximeter is a simple and inexpensive way to check your oxygen saturation levels. Drug stores nationwide carry a few varieties. They can be used to ensure the device is offering you the proper concentration of oxygen.
When using a pulse oximeter, try to aim for an oxygen saturation level between 95% and 100%. Anything lower indicates that your device is not delivering the proper concentration of oxygen. If your levels dip too low, you may experience symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, and shortness of breath.
3. Be Mindful of Symptoms
When using a portable oxygen concentrator at higher altitudes, it’s important to pay close attention to your body and watch out for any signs of altitude sickness. Common symptoms of altitude sickness include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Unable to sleep
- Dizziness and Fatigue
- Shortness of Breath
- Loss of Appetite
If you experience any of these, it’s best to stop your activity and rest until the symptoms subside. You may also need to increase your oxygen flow rate to help relieve the symptoms to ensure you’re getting enough oxygen.
4. Increase the Flow Rate as Needed
As you ascend to higher altitudes, be sure to adjust your oxygen flow rate accordingly. Oftentimes, you’ll need to increase the flow rate in order for the device to deliver enough oxygen at a higher elevation.
It’s a good idea to consult your doctor or specialist before making any changes. They will be able to best determine the right flow rate for you based on your specific situation. Some rental providers will even make the necessary adjustments before delivering the device – just be sure to let them know your target elevation.
5. Stay Hydrated and Rested
Finally, make sure to stay well hydrated and get plenty of rest when using an oxygen concentrator at high altitudes. This will help you remain alert and energized throughout your travels.
Drinking plenty of fluids helps oxygenate your blood and will help you recover if you experience any altitude-related symptoms. This, with plenty of rest and your oxygen concentrator, will help you make the most of your adventure.
Avoid Alcohol, it can lead to dehydration.
By following these tips, you can ensure that your oxygen concentrator will serve you well during your time at higher altitudes. With the right preparation and knowledge, you can remain safe and comfortable while traveling.
Do You Need Oxygen for Your Next Trip to the Mountains?
If you’re planning a high-altitude trip and think you might need supplemental oxygen, look no further! At Alpine Oxygen, we offer medical-grade portable oxygen concentrators for rent in mountainous Colorado. Our experienced team will work with you to ensure your device is properly adjusted and ready for use at high altitudes.
Whether you need a continuous flow oxygen concentrator or a pulse dose type, we have the right device for you. Contact us today to get started! We look forward to providing you with reliable oxygen therapy during your next high-altitude adventure.