Lung disease: Coping with lung disease

Lung disease  
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Holidays can be a nightmare to organise – whether in the UK or abroad. But for those 8 million people in the UK living with a lung disease it can be practically impossible. A lung disease of some sort affects about one person in every British family, whether it is asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis or lung cancer, and leading an active everyday life for these sufferers can be difficult. But the problems do not end there. There is a growing demand for clinical oxygen – and the need for better and more dependable support to meet patients’ lifestyle aspirations.




Matt wants to know: "My father who is 80 and suffers from emphysema, and my mother who is an active 73 would like to take a holiday in the Mediterranean this year, as his chest is always 'easier' when he is in a warmer climate. However, he requires daily use of oxygen (it is plumbed in at home) and has been advised he would not be able to fly because of the lack of facilities for oxygen on aircraft. He uses a motorised scooter as opposed to a wheelchair. Can you tell me if there are any organisations/airlines/carers associations that might be able to help?" 

Mike and Jill said:


JS: It is recommended that if your father wishes to travel abroad that he discusses his travel with his chest consultant and is advised that it is safe for him to fly. Most airlines are able to offer oxygen services. It is necessary for you to contact the medical officer of the airline you wish to travel with. They will advise you what services are available and will advise you of the charge. For other details freephone Air Products on 0800 373 580, and for general advice on chest problems phone 0207 688 5555 The British Lung Foundation




Sam wants to know: "How do the oxygen canisters work?" 

Mike and Jill said:


JS: Small, lightweight portable cylinders enable sufferers to move about and to go on holiday. These are supplied on prescription from your GP in England, Scotland and Wales.




Isobel wants to know: "Which kind of lung diseases are people in the UK suffering from?" 

Mike and Jill said:


MS: From chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and overlay of asthma. The first two tend to occur in the middle and later years, largely due to smoking. Harmful changes in the lung make it increasingly hard to breathe until the person becomes housebound and isolated without the portable use of oxygen.




Ginny wants to know: "How do I get Oxygen when going on holiday in the UK ?" 

Mike and Jill said:


JS: Air Products has a complete cost-effective holiday service for oxygen delivery throughout the UK. For information on the service please see the free phone number at the end of our chat.




Maria wants to know: "Why does air travel affect people with lung conditions?" 

Mike and Jill said:


MS: We depend upon the oxygen in the air to enable our bodies to work properly. In standard air travel the cabin has reduced oxygen pressure to that which you would expect at about 7000 feet, whatever height the aircraft goes up to, the air pressure remains at the pressure it would at 7000 feet. For someone with a reduced breathing capacity already, this may be the last straw. They then will gasp for breath, feel faint, and in the worst circumstances, can suffer irreversible damage to critical parts of their body.




Bill wants to know: "What happens if I get a chest infection while on holiday?" 

Mike and Jill said:


JS: If you are on holiday and experience any medical problems you must contact the local doctor who will then be able to treat you accordingly. There are too many chest problems to be able be more specific then that.




John wants to know: "My mum requires oxygen and portable oxygen sounds perfect for her. She's quite frail so will she be able to carry it around with her or is it quite heavy?" 

Mike and Jill said:


JS: The light weight portable oxygen cylinder weighs 3.2 kilograms and is 18 inches long, and is available with a light weight ruck sack. You can see them on the screen right now!!! Even lighter ones are being developed.




Ellis wants to know: "How do I know if I might have difficulty travelling by air?" 

Mike and Jill said:


JS: It is recommended prior to making any travel arrangements that if you have continuing chest problems you discuss this with your GP or chest consultant, the possibility of air travel with or without the aid of portable oxygen equipment. Your chest consultant may decide to do a flight assessment investigation in the respiratory function unit to assess your need for oxygen.




Dave wants to know: "Can Oxygen have any other health benefits?" 

Mike and Jill said:


MS: For a person with normal chest function it will have no benefits whatsoever. Your blood will already be saturated with oxygen and any suggested benefit is only a marketing ploy.




Geoff wants to know: "Can you take your own oxygen tank on to an aeroplane or does the airline provide it for you?" 

Mike and Jill said:


JS: Oxygen services on airlines do vary. It is possible on one or two airlines to take your own oxygen supply. Our recommendation is to contact the medical officer of your chosen airline who will be able to advise you what services are available.




Maggie wants to know: "How many people do you supply oxygen to?" 

Mike and Jill said:


MS: There are 8 million sufferers from chest problems in the UK - one in every extended family. Fortunately, only a relatively small proportion of these will need oxygen. For those that do, it can be vital - that is, save their life.




Steve wants to know: "Does oxygen have an expiration date?" 

Mike and Jill said:


JS: Oxygen doesn't but the oxygen cylinder has a 5 year life cycle before it needs to be rechecked and refurbished if necessary. If oxygen itself were to deteriorate, which fortunately it doesn't, we'd all soon perish.




Rach wants to know: "Would you recommend this for Asthmatics?" 

Mike and Jill said:


MS: Pure asthma is a symptom not a disease. For a variety of reasons the breathing tubes get smaller and make it very hard for the person to breathe. For most people with asthma, something which allows these breathing tubes to enlarge back to normal - a medicine is what they need. It is rare that the condition worsens to the extent that oxygen is necessary and it is essential that it is under the strict control of a doctor or nurse and usually in hospital.




Dan wants to know: "Is it pure oxygen? Can this be damaging to your lungs?" 

Mike and Jill said:


JS: The medical oxygen in the cylinder is pure oxygen. The percentage of oxygen delivered to the user is dependant on the delivery system and the flow rate of the apparatus. Patients requiring oxygen for their lung condition should be investigated by their doctor to determine the correct level of oxygen to benefit their condition.




Sara wants to know: "Can I refill the portable tank myself?" 

Mike and Jill said:


JS: It is not recommended for patients to decant oxygen from large cylinders into small portable cylinders. Until the latest technology of light weight portable cylinders was made available on prescription, this used to be common practice, but is no longer to be recommended - we have safer ways to do it now.




Nicky wants to know: "Can I use oxygen around smokers?" 

Mike and Jill said:






Mark wants to know: "What is the most common method of oxygen delivery in the home?" 

Mike and Jill said:


JS: At the present time there are two forms of delivery of oxygen services, - large and small oxygen cylinders. For long term oxygen-therapy patients, the use of an oxygen concentrator that delivers continuous oxygen up to 24 hours a day is available on prescription, on recommendation from your chest consultant.




Frank wants to know: "My husband needs to use oxygen. He's a smoker and refuses to give up. Is it recommended to use oxygen if you're a smoker?" 

Mike and Jill said:


MS: Smoking is NOT recommended. However, if your husband needs oxygen-therapy then it should be made available to him. However, under NO circumstances should he smoke at the same time as he uses his oxygen and he MUST turn off his oxygen prior to a smoking.




Jack wants to know: "Do the canisters need to be kept at a certain temperature?" 

Mike and Jill said:


JS: It is recommended that all oxygen cylinders are stored in a cool environment and 3 metres away from any heat source.




Sarah wants to know: "Can people suffer any side effects when using oxygen?" 

Mike and Jill said:


MS: If anyone is foolhardy enough to use oxygen in a public place or establishment for "leisure purposes" without medical need and not under medical supervision, they can alter the constitution of their blood to make it too alkaline with potentially disastrous consequences. It is NOT to be advised.




Tania wants to know: "Is portable oxygen a new thing? " 

Mike and Jill said:


JS: Light-weight, portable oxygen cylinders have been available on prescription in England and Wales for about 5 years. From April 2004, they have become available in Scotland for the first time, due to the support of the Minister of Health - Malcolm Chisholm.




Kim wants to know: "If going on holiday and travelling by aeroplane, how much oxygen is it possible to take on a long journey, and if needed, where can I get more oxygen during my holiday?" 

Mike and Jill said:


JS: If you wish to travel by air, it is recommended that you discuss your oxygen requirements with a medical officer of your chosen airline. Taking your own oxygen cylinders is rarely, if ever allowed. You will find a fuller answer to a previous, similar question higher up the chat.




Kate wants to know: "Is carrying around oxygen dangerous at all? Is there any chance the canisters could explode?" 

Mike and Jill said:


MS: Carrying it around carries no risk worth mentioning. However, we must reiterate that you must NEVER smoke anywhere near an oxygen cylinder whilst it is in use.




Graham wants to know: "Do you have to pay for oxygen abroad?" 

Mike and Jill said:


JS: The Air Products Holiday Service is available abroad and a full list of our costs and services are available from our free phone number at the end of this chat, alternatively email us at




Kelly wants to know: "What is compressed oxygen?" 

Mike and Jill said:


MS: Compressed oxygen is oxygen that is subject to a greater pressure than it would be under at sea level. In order for this to be contained, it has to be in a specially produced cylinder or other container. It can then be compressed to very high pressures, depending on what it is required for.




James wants to know: "What advances do you see in the future use of compressed medical oxygen cylinders?" 

Mike and Jill said:


MS: The greatest immediate advance is to produce even lighter and more long lasting forms of oxygen appliances to make patients even more able to lead a normal life and travel about.




Harry wants to know: "Where can we go to get more help and advice?" 

Mike and Jill said:


JS: For more help and advice please phone Air Products' free phone number on 0800 373 580 or the British Lung Foundation on 0207 688 5555.







Breathe easy! Goodbye!

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