senior man canoeing in a lake
(© Jacob Lund –

As someone who may be diagnosed with a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or respiratory illness, life can seem a bit cumbersome having to carry around heavy and robust oxygen tanks.

COPD and respiratory illness have been classified as the third leading cause of death in the world, with more than 3.3 million deaths in 2019 according to the World Health Organization. In the United States, COPD affects around 15 million Americans, as more than 150,000 deaths are recorded each year related to COPD illnesses according to the Center for Disease Control.

With the increased need from governmental health organizations and private institutions to ensure we take better care of our physical health, having to walk around using an oxygen concentrator may seem like the last resort for many, even if you’re well before the age of really needing to make use of one.

For those who are living through a time when a regular oxygen prescription is needed, using a portable oxygen concentration shouldn’t restrict you from doing the activities you enjoy most.

What causes COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a chronic disease that can lead to abnormalities in the airflow from in and out of the lungs. Symptoms can include heavy and difficult breathing, dry coughs, and abnormal phlegm production.

The main causes of COPD include excessive exposure to occupational fumes, gasses, and dust, exposure to indoor polluted air over long periods, harmful chemicals, and years of ongoing and heavy tobacco smoking.

There might also be the possibility that personal factors might influence the lung growth of children which could lead to the increased risk of having COPD or any other related respiratory illness.

Is COPD treatable?

Yes, COPD can be treated to an extent, it’s advised that people of every economic and social background ensure they receive their pneumonia, influenza, and more recently COVID-19 vaccine.

Additionally, smokers should be encouraged to either quit smoking or lower their daily intake of tobacco. Parents should advise children not to smoke, especially not from a very young age, while ensuring that children are not exposed to excessive chemicals, smoke, and indoor pollution during their development years.

Support should be given to all age groups, most importantly being older adults and senior citizens to take up regular exercising, whether it’s walking, running, a non-intensive sport, or hiking. Regular exercise helps to keep your lungs active and rebuild any broken tissue.

Why use a portable oxygen concentrator?

There are plenty of reasons why one should consider using a portable oxygen concentrator, for the most part, is that having to live with COPD or any respiratory illness for that matter can severely affect your lifestyle and daily routine.

Depending on the severity of each case, COPD can contribute to excessive tiredness, heavy or difficulty breathing, and inordinate coughing often with heavy doses of phlegm.

Respiratory illness is no easy challenge to live with, that’s why medical professionals in the field are recommending that those individuals, especially seniors make use of the best portable oxygen concentrators available on the market.

While these may come at a price tag not many can afford, it’s advised to look at what your needs are, against your financial situation. Furthermore, consider the various brands, and manufacturers that are available and which one would be most suitable for you.

What are the benefits of portable oxygen concentrators?

Depending on the need and how frequently you’ll be using a portable oxygen concentrator there are currently a variety of benefits that can help get your life back on track.

Better mobility

Using old, heavy, and robust oxygen tanks can easily hinder your mobility. Newer designs and models have been manufactured to ensure that the wearer can easily take their oxygen concentrator wherever they need.

Some of these devices are lightweight and can be worn as a backpack, around the waist, or perhaps over the shoulder. With better designs and functionality, one will also now be able to quickly recharge devices, as batteries are smaller and somewhat lighter than previous models.

You will be able to take your portable oxygen concentrator on flights, as most newer models are FAA approved, to a sports event or on a long haul trip. There’s no need to wheel your device around or make additional arrangements for it to come with you.

Increased independence

Having to wheel around cumbersome oxygen tanks, while also having to manage the maintenance and regularly refilling it can quickly stand in the way of your independence.

Before the industry was able to introduce portable concentrators, individuals had to sign up or register with an oxygen refilling company, today that’s a lot easier, as devices can quickly be refilled without having to wait for a replacement tank.

Traditional methods were time-consuming and quite expensive to refill. One would also have to make frequent visits to the doctor or a medical professional so that they can examine the condition of tanks, with a portable system, this is now a lot easier and seamless.

Individuals will be able to examine their systems at home and make a visit to the doctor when it is needed. Most of the devices come with standard batteries that require you to recharge them now and again. A portable device gives you back more independence, and you’ll need less assistance with general care and maintenance.

Improved health

With better mobility, and not having to carry or wheel around a heavy oxygen tank, it’s now more possible to do the activities you’ve always enjoyed. From regular walks, hiking, biking, and golf, to frequently visiting friends and family – portable oxygen concentrators can also help improve your health.

Not only is it now possible to get your physical health back, without having to stress about carrying around your heavy tank, but you’ll take the strain off your mental health as well. While it may still seem like a burden to some having to make use of these devices, there are several ways it can positively impact your physical health.

Long haul travel

In the years before portable devices, individuals who made use of oxygen tanks were barred from traveling on airplanes as these tanks were considered high risk, hazardous and explosive.

While this has made it extremely difficult for oxygen patients to travel on long-haul flights, newer designs and models are a lot safer and most of them are FAA approved. With a portable oxygen concentrator, the device will make use of ambient air, remove any nitrogen and argon, or any other impurities and produce medical-grade oxygen which is then delivered through a nasal cannula.

There’s no need to worry about it affecting other passengers on planes, buses, or trains as these devices are almost harmless and non-hazardous. One will only need to ensure that devices are fully charged before taking long-haul flights, or ensure that a charging outlet is available when needed.

More affordable

When it comes to the price point of having to make use of a portable oxygen concentrator you’ll quickly notice how inexpensive these devices can be.

Industry standards prices for a portable device can range between $395 to $1,500 once off, whereas an oxygen tank can cost you anything between $600 to $2,000 once off.

The prices for some tanks may vary depending on where they’ll be used, either in a stationary position such as at home, or a smaller, more “portable” tank.

There’s also the option of having to rent an oxygen tank which can range between $35 to $250 per week, while refills for tanks can cost you about $25 to $40 per month. There’s also an additional charge which can cost around $45 for swapping tanks.

Adding the numbers together will indicate how expensive an oxygen tank can be, and in a time when you want to rather spend your money on leisure and recreational activities, wasting so much money on oxygen tanks can become a major financial burden.

The takeaway

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or any other respiratory illness is a challenge for many people in the United States and across the world. It’s a growing problem that has seen millions of people permanently lose their freedom, mobility, and independence to do what they enjoy the most in life.

For senior citizens, or those now entering retirement, having a device that gives them back their independence helps them improve their health, physical endurance and above all saves them the unnecessary burden of having to wheel around heavy oxygen tanks.

From a cost point of view, it’s clear that a portable oxygen concentrator, which on average lasts around five years, is the better financial option. It’s not only saving you a lot of money, but it’s also giving you back control, and eliminating the burden caused by expensive, outdated and robust apparatus.

Story by Anees Saddique

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