Taking a Shower with Supplemental Oxygen

Taking a Shower with Supplemental Oxygen

Just breathe, passionate help for the PF journey

It is so hard to get used to using supplemental oxygen. I still remember my shock and anger when told I would have to cart oxygen around whenever I moved about. I couldn’t believe it! I had a few choice words to say to my doctor about that.

Facing reality

As my disease worsens, I’ve had to transition to 24/7 oxygen use. My last hold-out was using oxygen in the shower. It was the one time I allowed myself to be oxygen-free for 15 minutes a day. Once I started to dip below 90-percent oxygen saturation when standing in the shower, I gave in and wore it in the shower, too.

It was amazing to see how my attitude changed about having to make this transition. For months, I would tell my husband how wonderful it was to not use oxygen in the shower, and how I didn’t know how I could ever adjust in the future. Once I started needing it, my attitude changed. I saw it as a friend that I really needed to help me take a soothing shower.

Emotionally, I really resisted this transition, but once it came I was fine with it. I really enjoy a shower to start my day. It soothes my aches and pains and clears out my sinuses so I can breathe easier. I’m so glad I have oxygen to help me do something I enjoy.

Helpful tips

  • Increase your liters per minute when in the shower. Standing takes more oxygen than sitting.
  • Use an oximeter before you get in the shower to see if your levels are over 90 percent before you turn the water on. Also, test it after you get out. Adjust your oxygen liters per minute as needed.
  • Make sure your cannula is long enough to make it to the shower and over the door easily. It’s no fun having the oxygen cord pulling on you like a dog with a leash!
  • Secure the cannula inside the shower so it doesn’t pull on you. Be careful to not pinch the cord. See my video below for an example.
  • If you aren’t able to stand, or prefer not to, you can buy a shower chair to sit on so you are safe.
  • Consider purchasing a detachable showerhead attachment. It will help you have control over where the water is going and make bathing easier.
  • Make sure to use the exhaust fan in the bathroom when you shower to suck the moist air out of your bathroom. The room can get warm and humid and make you even more tired. It can also be damaging to your oxygen concentrator to take in steam from your bath or shower.
  • Have grab bars installed in your shower. This can help you avoid injuries from slipping and falling in the shower.
  • Move your concentrator outside the bathroom or far away from the shower to keep it from getting wet.
  • If it doesn’t make your oxygen drop too much, you can take off your cannula briefly while you wash your face and rinse your hair.
  • Do not lock your bathroom door and tell someone you are taking a shower.
  • Keep your oximeter and phone just outside the shower door. Make sure they don’t get wet as you enter and exit the shower door.

Enjoy!

Taking a shower or bath takes some preparation and can wear you out. I often have to lie down on my bed to rest for a while afterward. I encourage you to go slow, be careful, and enjoy the experience. Here’s a short video that might help.

I’d love to hear from you

Do you use oxygen in the shower? What tips do you have for us to make it a little easier?

Please leave a comment below and share with those who could benefit via email or on social media.

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Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.

37 comments

  1. Roger Mills says:

    Good morning Kim,

    I was just told by phone call that i will be needing to use oxygen at night because my reading dropped below 88 for nine minutes. I was diagnosed in April 2016. So, the info you provide here is some that i will be needing in the future. I really appreciate you posting this info. If you have any advice for a first time night oxygen user, i would love to have it. Take care and thank you….Roger Mills

    • Hi Roger. I remember getting that news too. I was too happy because I thought it would be really hard. Turned out it wasn’t. Realize it will take a little getting used to, but not too much. At first I worried about whether sleeping on my side would cut off the oxygen, but it didn’t. I think it was more difficult emotionally to have to get used to one more thing, than it was to adjust to physically. A wonderful result was I started sleeping a lot better. It is a blessing over all…just more adjusting. Great question Roger, I think I’ll write a column on it!

      • Dana says:

        Dear Kim, You always hit the nail in the head and give me all the information that I need to remain sane while dealing with this horrible disease IPF. Thank you for the information abut how to take a shower with the oxygen on. Best Regards, Dana

  2. Terry Moriarty says:

    I put my phone and medical emergency alert device in a ziplock bag and put it on the bench ledge that is at one end of my shower. If I did fall, I could get to them without having to fuss with opening the shower door. I can push the buttons through the bag and the devices are water protected. Thanks for the other ideas.

  3. Dave Raedeker says:

    I have a five foot wide shower with grab bars. I use a chair in the shower that is made for that purpose. I use oxygen while I take my shower. I turn the O2 flow up while I am taking my shower and this works well for me. As time goes by I have modified my shower process as my body has changed. I keep my smart phone close by if a problem occurs. I feel safe and fortunate to have the setup in my home. Thanks for your words of wisdom.

  4. Dave says:

    We replaced our shower door with a curtain that allows air to move more freely. Also, don’t close bathroom door if you able to maintain privacy.

  5. Andy from Virginia says:

    Kim, thank you for the article. My IPF is progressing now and one of the last areas I don’t use O2 is the shower. But of late taking a shower is now turning in to an ordeal. I will have to give this a try. Thank you for tips and video.

  6. Rhonda says:

    I started using my oxygen while showering a few months ago. My shower is now much more relaxing and enjoyable. A person does not always Realize how exerting a shower can be and toweling off afterwards. I also have my phone within reach in case of a fall or emergency.

  7. E. hays says:

    Good afternoon, Kim. Thanks so much for today’s info re showering with my constant companion the ever-present oxygen cannula and connecting hoses. I was told sometime ago by my excellent pulmonologist and best friend (my husband Jack)not to take my oxygen off when taking a shower! I tried but found it so annoying I gave up after only 2 showers accompanied by the green snake that kept sliding the shower door open. Tonight I’ll try again and I’m betting I can make it all work. (Plus Jack says he’s gonna be in the shower with me!)

    • Brenda says:

      Can you not slip it over the shower head and let it fall behind you? That’s what I do and it so much easier plus it doesn’t get wrapped around you. I also use a shower stool if I get tired.

  8. Beverly Mix says:

    Using oxygen in the shower helps the day start better. It was tough to get used to. I have a little hook in the shower for my loofah and I hang my cannula on it while I wash and/or exfoliate my face. Handy and I can reach it quickly. And blow drying hair is much easier if I keep the oxygen flowing. Sometimes it seems as there are too many things we have to learn to cope with but we are still learning to cope and that beats the alternative. Enjoying my morning coffee with my spouse is still a privilege for me.

    • Dear Beverly,
      Sounds like you have some great ideas to make showering work for you. I’m so glad. Love your comment, “we are still learning to cope and that beats the alternative.” So true…Enjoying meaningful moments are so important.

  9. Joyce Douglas says:

    thank you Kim. So good to have these great suggestions about using the Oxygen in the shower. I have a couple of times now and it makes the shower much more enjoyable and not so tiring. I will hook the hose over the shower curtain rather than around it…less water outside the tub.
    It is best to have a hook or two to hang the hose on rather than have it fall to the floor. So far I don’t need a bath chair as I’m able to stand to shower, but it may come to that. Nice to have that clean feeling.

  10. Cheryl says:

    Hi Kim…I always look forward to your column. My husband Larry has used his oxygen in the shower for a long time. When he shaves and washes his face he puts the cannula in his mouth to breathe, and then switches it back to his nose as needed. He had a hip replacement five weeks ago so that made showering even more difficult for him, but he used the shower chair and I got in the shower to help him until he could do it on his own again. We have a very large shower so it makes it easy for him, and less claustrophobic as well since the shower surround is clear glass.

  11. Bruce Buckner says:

    I can’t shower, even with my O2 at hard exercise levels, the humidity is just too much. I leave the bathroom door open and the fan on full but it still gets too humid in the shower stall. I take baths now and find it much easier.

  12. Frosty says:

    Need 15 lts plus now for ADLs. Use same system as described by your blog; tubing over top of shower door, keep shower and bathroom doors open and exhaust fan on b/c of steam build up. Use liquid oxygen E tank (and have another one nearby as a backup). Concentrator does not go up to 15 lts. Showering with assistance for upper body b/c raising arms takes too much energy. Shower chair is a must. Someone helps me slip into a terry robe as I step out of shower – using a towel to dry off is too tiring. Then I sit down on a scooter which is a few steps from the shower. Sometimes I need an additional boost of 02 from another E tank, holding that canula up to the other one for a few minutes to bring my 02 level up to a 91-93. I am thankful to be able to shower. Also thankful to have a scooter to navigate around the house.

  13. Tom Stamp says:

    I use oxygen at night and when needed during the day. I put my oxygen on before I get in the shower and don’t take it off until I’m fully dressed and ready for the day.

  14. Carmela says:

    Thank you Kim. The hints and video are extremely helpful.

    I never imagined how difficult, clumsy, and tiring showering with/oxygen would be–another one of those life changing adjustments. I use oxygen 24/7 and raise the level if it’s very humid.

    I keep the phone, a bottle of water and my rollator nearby for when I get out of the tub. I have a bath chair; I keep it in the tub but fortunately haven’t needed to use it the last couple of months–def progress in establishing my “new normal.” Additionally, I wear beach shoes to avoid slipping in the tub; they give me a sense of stability while standing and showering.

  15. Bob Frey says:

    Dear Kim, Thanks for caring. I’ve had pf for 7 years… Recently it has kicked into overdrive; For the last few weeks I’ve struggled mightily with it’s strangulation. I’m on continuous flow 6 constantly. I have to be near a fan, or air-conditioner nearly always now. Also i’ve found that if i need to evacuate it increases mt heart rate and breathing difficulty. my heart-Dr. that a chemical is released and causes the immediacy.

  16. Mardy Sitzer says:

    Diagnosed with IPF and I’m on 24/7 oxygen. I shower with my oxygen now. I require assistance to get in and out of my tub to shower – it is an old fashioned iron tub with claw feet – cool when I was younger but not so much now. Anyway – I am grateful to all of you for sharing your experiences – and solutions. Living with this disease seems to require some creative ingenuity to find safe solutions and achieve or maintain a quality of life.

    To that end it appears that many of you, myself included, rely on our cell phones. Having had my battery die and on another occasion the phone was beyond my reach, I sought other solutions and wound up with Amazon’s Echo – Alexa. I have them set up throughout my apartment and can instruct it to call anyone that is in my contact list – you can even set up a group and it will send a message to all in the group. It is a one time cost ($40 for the small one and $100 for the larger one), no monthly maintenance fees and easy to set up. Google has one as well so what ever system you are most comfortable with. It is a back up when your phone is out of reach or the battery has up and died – and so much more, but this was the driving factor for me when I was researching costs for ‘life alert’ type systems as I am alone a lot and have had a few bad falls. It is worth looking into – Thank you!

  17. Bill Pommy says:

    Does anyone have any suggestions for managing a 100 ft ox tube? With a two story house and the liquid oxygen in the garage, the tubing often gets twisted and tangled. I’m on 4 liters, 24/7. I also have 2 portable tanks which last about 2 hours each. Finally, I have a 40 gallon tank for my car which is great. I use it to breathe and to refill my portables.

  18. Shala says:

    I posted this comment already from the home page but do not see it here. I cannot remember where I read this info; may have been on PubMed. Respirology Case reports that a medication named Nintedanib prevented progression and lung cancer growth in IPF. As IPF patients are susceptible to this additional complication I thought this info should be passed on.

  19. Neil from Melbourne. says:

    Had my first shower this morning using oxygen and the hose over the top of the door. After drying I was still panting, but previously I was down to 84% and couldn’t get back to the oxygen quick enough before drying to relieve the utter breathlessness. Thanks for the many good ideas from the above comments.

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