I’ve been a respiratory therapist for the past 30 years, working in hospital settings as well as home care. I think about problems folks with respiratory conditions could face in an emergency situation. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but would like to offer a few tips for coping in an emergency.
If someone in your home or family uses oxygen continuously or even just periodically or at night, make sure you have extra masks, cannulas, tubing or whatever supplies you normally use. Most home therapists always carry extra supplies and I am sure they would give you a couple of extra masks or cannulas if you ask them.
If you have backup oxygen cylinders, keep a couple of full cylinders in reserve for emergencies. If you use a cannula, you might ask your doctor if you could benefit from a nasal cannula with an oxygen reservoir- these allow a person to use a lower flow of oxygen to meet their needs, thereby conserving their precious tanks. These cannulas are a bit pricey, but could be invaluable in getting the most longevity from 02 tanks.
And if you use 02 only for exercise or only occasionally, double check that the tank is turned completely off when you are done. You don’t want to waste any amount of such a necessity.
If you take nebulizer treatments at home, or use an inhaler, keep an adequate supply of your meds- they could be hard to replace in a crisis. Home nebulizers need to be cleaned to prevent infections. I instruct my patients to soak their nebulizers in a solution of 1 part white vinegar to 2 parts sterile water, then rinse in sterile/distilled water and air dry. So keep some white vinegar on hand, as well as some sterile water. Of course, you could always sterilize water by boiling it.
Asthmatics could also have increased problems in an emergency scenario. Dust, smoke, pollutants, etc. could trigger attacks. Again, keep a decent supply of meds- both long acting and rescue inhalers and also stock up on some n-95 or N-100 masks. If cold air is a trigger for you, limit outdoor exposure and cover your mouth and nose with a scarf. The use of a peak flow meter can help asthmatics in predicting possible attacks- this is a “cheap insurance policy“, but could be of great benefit.
Most of my patients living in rural or even suburban areas that depend on an 02 concentrator, have a backup generator as well as back up 02 tanks at home. Also, if you use an 02 concentrator, you need to make your power company aware of this, so that your home can be a priority should there be a power outage.
This is not an exhaustive list of tips for a respiratory emergency, but perhaps it will spur you to think about, and plan for this type of situation. Hope it helps a bit.
One last thought- I firmly believe everyone needs to know CPR and the Heimlich maneuver- these can be lifesavers. Take a class if you can- extra knowledge is invaluable.