Oxygen concentrators and travelPosted by kate-smithson on June 2, 2021 at 7:11 pm
I have been searching old columns and forums for information on oxygen concentrators, as I’m sure this has been aired before. Please help me out, as I seem to recall Charlene writing about a POC that she used for travel. [I am also living in Ontario, Canada.]
I was diagnosed with IPF in August 2018, almost 3 years ago, and am not yet on oxygen, although it has been suggested that I use it while exercising. [I get around this by taking frequent breaks till my oxygen level comes up again… or not pushing myself too hard!].
My pulmonologist sent a prescription to a medical gas company here, who supply the OxyGO5 POC. I expect I will need oxygen for air travel by September, if we are able to fly again. My husband and I are considering a trip to Scotland to visit our daughter, and a trip to Vancouver at Christmas to meet our first grandchild, expected in November. I am confused as to what POC’s are suitable/available for use on airlines.
If you could direct me to information and suggestions on travel with supplemental oxygen, I would appreciate it.
MemberJune 2, 2021 at 9:12 pm
I used a portable oxygen concentrator that my oxygen company provided as well as a concentrator in my home with a 50’ hose. I then purchased a POC from inogen as they now have one that goes up to 6 ltrs keep in mind that is pulsating and not continuous flow. For the airlines you need tn check with whatever airline you are flying because they all have different rules. A consistent rule is that you have enough batteries for more than the duration of your trip. Good luck and hope you are able to visit your family!
MemberJune 3, 2021 at 2:07 pm
as of my knowlage most concentrators nowdays are certified for travel. Some airlines are concerned on the type of battery the machine uses, like lethium batterys are not allowed on board aircraft.
MemberJune 15, 2021 at 3:52 pm
I don’t think that’s true. I know of no POC that doesn’t use Li batteries.
MemberJune 3, 2021 at 3:19 pm
I have been flying with an oxygen concentrator twice a month for the last year. I have to call in to get my Inogen cleared each time I fly with my airline. Besides that, it is not a problem flying with them. You still have to wear a mask for the most part on the flights. I have to certify that I have enough battery power for at least one and a half times the flight duration. It really has helped a lot having the oxygen concentrator during the flights.
MemberJune 3, 2021 at 3:44 pm
All OxyGo POC’s are FAA approved…https://oxygo.life/faqs Remember you need 150% battery life for the trip. Make sure you contact your airline and they will tell how many batteries you need. Take into acct if the batteries have been used a lot as they can deliver less life than you think. You will most likely have to use at least the setting as you do for activity as cabins are normally pressurized at 8000-10000 feet. My wife had to use her POC even when she was in your situation because riding in a plane is like being up in the mountains. My wife now needs hers to sleep with a CPAP so we bought a SimplyGo that does pulse and up to 2 lpm continuous. Even before the CPAP, that requires continuous flow, she was not able to sleep with her pulse machine without triggering alarms all night.
MemberJune 15, 2021 at 5:37 pm
I found exactly the same. Pulse is no good for sleep. Maybe some people can do it but I sure can’t.
MemberJune 3, 2021 at 3:44 pm
Hi Kate–this is a good topic, especially as many of us with reduced lung capacity begin to travel and fly again. I have been researching this for some time and suggest the following authoritative resources:
1) The Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation has a an informational section on Oxygen Therapy that discusses traveling with oxygen. See https://www.pulmonaryfibrosis.org/life-with-pf/oxygen-therapy PFF also operates an Oxygen Therapy Information Line 844-825-5733 which you can contact.
2) Most commercial airlines pressurize their cabins with oxygen levels comparable to 6000-8000 ft altitude. Depending on what altitude you currently live at this could be a drop of about 25% oxygen from approximately 20% at sea level to approximately 15% at 8000 ft. https://hypoxico.com/altitude-to-oxygen-chart/
3) The Univ of Az Center on Aging has a brochure titled “Fit to Fly” that discusses flying for individuals with limited lung function. See https://www.uofazcenteronaging.com/care-sheet/providers/fit-fly-older-adults-and-air-travel#:~:text=Oxygen%20Pressures%20During%20Air%20Travel,21%25%20found%20at%20sea%20level.
4) Most Portable Oxygen Concentrators (POCs) are accepted by major airlines for in-flight use. When you get your POC, double check the make with the airline(s) you will be flying to confirm. Also, you should notify the airline when you schedule your flight that you plan to use your POC in flight because most want a document from your doctor certifying your need for oxygen. Also, because the POC and cannula cannot be stowed in the same way other carry-ons are, you may be seated in a window seat so that in an emergency others don’t trip over your cannula. All commercial airlines have a special unit that deals with “disabled” passengers. Look for it on the website or ask the airline customer service agent. Also, a POC is NOT counted as part of your carry-on luggage as it is a medical device.
5) Lithium-ion batteries–the most common type of battery for POCs–are allowed as part of your carry-on–at least in the US–but NOT in checked baggage. See the FAA guidelines at https://www.faa.gov/hazmat/packsafe/more_info/?hazmat=7 Most airlines want you to have sufficient battery capacity to last 150% of the length of your flight. This may take some pre-flight testing on your part to see how long a battery will last at the rate you will use on the flight. I assume margin of safety is because of potential delays extending the expected flight time.
Good Luck and Happy Travels. It sounds more complicated that it is but ….
ModeratorJune 3, 2021 at 4:40 pm
@dejones8576 Thanks for sharing all of these great resources Doug!
I don’t think my mom ever traveled by plane while she was on oxygen, but she does live at 6500 feet. I feel like the batteries lasted decently well at that elevation/O2 use, but I imagine an international flight would require a bunch of batteries… better have a big roller case to carry them in, they’re heavy!
Do any of you have other air travel tips you’d like to share? This is a great idea for a column, where all the resources can be in one place for folks. (actually, I think Charlene has done at least one on traveling with PF.. I’ll have to check.) Until I do, reply here or send me a message if you want to contribute ideas or let me pick your brain some more 🙂
MemberJune 3, 2021 at 8:40 pm
I have done a few columns on travelling with oxygen @christie-patient, along with some forum posts too. Lots of discussion about how to travel with 02 on the forums. I hope they help someone 🙂
MemberJune 4, 2021 at 7:51 pm
It has been some time for me since I actually commented on this site and I just read the above comments regarding traveling with a POC. I have been using an inogen POC since early August 2020 and I am on 3 lts continuously. My issue with this method is it very restrictive in terms of battery life, I am using the battery that was issued with the unit and only get maybe two hours depending on my activity. I was informed that there is a battery that affords you at least double that time but it is around $500 dollars and this to some may be to expensive. To my point I wonder if there might be a way to network and make these type of necessities available throughout this forum. I am sure that there are persons that may no longer need their POC’s and would be willing to make them available at a fair price. Just a thought.
MemberJune 6, 2021 at 12:10 pm
So nice to hear from you, and thanks for writing! Yes, POCs can be quite restrictive based on needing batteries or weight, depending on the flow you need.
It would be really nice to utilize this forum as a platform to exchange equipment that may not be needed or used anymore for fellow patients. I’m not sure if there are any legalities restricting that, so I’d need to find out. For example, who is responsible of a piece of equipment exchanged on this site was defective and caused a health issue for someone? I know we can’t exchange medications on here due to US laws (even though that is a bummer because Ofev and Esbriet can be so costly for some and others have to throw it out) so I’m not sure if that is the same for equipment. I’d have to find out from the company! It is a good idea though…
MemberJune 4, 2021 at 11:45 pm
Thank you all who responded to my question re POC’s. I am so appreciative of the information shared. Your comments have given me much to read before getting set up.
In checking with an equipment supplier, I learned that the OxyGo 5 is manufactured by Inogen and is the name used for the Canadian brand. Apparently they are the same.
I re-read Charlene’s excellent article on various issues facing a young adult with IPF and was so encouraged by her comments that using oxygen had not prevented her from participating in life. (I have been resisting using oxygen, thinking it signalled the end of ‘normal’ living. )
Your attitude and courage are an inspiration, Charlene. May you soon be one of the recipients of new lungs and enjoy many years with a renewed lease on life!
MemberJune 6, 2021 at 12:04 pm
Thanks so much for your post about POCs and travel! As COVID restrictions ease, this is something I look forward to doing again, albeit safely and only when the time is right. Really good questions and I’m glad others have helped you find some answers by sharing their experiences.
I have flown with my POC many times, both domestically and internationally so I’m happy to answer any specific questions too!
I really appreciate your comments on my writing! It’s hard to be vulnerable and write about a disease I hate so much, and that has caused such a change in the future I had hoped for; but knowing my words help others makes it easier. I understand the reluctance about using oxygen, it is hard. I’ll share that yesterday I went kayaking for 6km with a friend and I brought my tank with me as it was hot and we didn’t know how long we’d be out. It was still so much fun and allowed me to do this activity safely 🙂
Take care and thanks again for your comments, I really appreciate them.
Much love to you.
MemberJune 8, 2021 at 8:41 pm
Thank you for the great insights @charlene-marshall and @dejones8576!
MemberJune 10, 2021 at 3:58 pm
The government considers the POC to be a medical device and only administered with a prescription from a medical physician. To sell it or trade it off to someone who does not have a prescription is considered illegal and can be prosecuted although I have not heard of anyone actually being arrested for it. It is based on a percentage of oxygen that the unit can supply, I believe anything over 92% is considered a medical device. That is what they consider a POC such as the inogen.
MemberJune 11, 2021 at 7:14 pm
Good points James! Thanks for sharing and for this reminder. So often we don’t think of POCs as medical devices but since they require a prescription for use, they certainly are. I appreciate your post.
MemberJune 22, 2021 at 6:30 am
Yes you are not supposed to sell POCs, nevertheless they are common on EBay and even more common on CraigsList. The Lithium-ion batteries are legal to sell and are common on Ebay. They are very expensive new so if you can find batteries for your machine you can save money.
However how the POC has been looked after and run is very important.You can’t let a POC stand idle for a year and expect it work according to POC techs that I’ve talked to.
MemberJune 15, 2021 at 3:50 pm
I have flown round-trip transatlantic 3 times and coast to coast in the US twice. There is a company at oxygentogo.com that is very helpful on air travel. Some airlines sub contract permission to them. Look at their website. They show all FAA allowed POCs.
The FAA requires you to carry 150% of the batteries needed for a one-way trip. If you have stopovers you can probably recharge your used batteries. Ox to Go rents POCs and batteries though I have never used them. They will also answer all sorts of questions about POCs by phone or email. There are competitors and I have used them for rental but I forget the name though I have it in my records, and they were no problem. Some airlines supply oxygen – Virgin used to but who knows now? They normally supply pulse only. However you still have the problem of what you do at your destination for oxygen. My original Medicare supplier would loan me POC and batteries but only for travel within the US. The risks are what you are prepared to take. If you can get by with 1L/min pulse – fine. Not all airlines even require a doctor’s note so the risk is on you.
I conducted many tests when flying using an oximeter. Cruising height is normally at a pressure found at 8000feet. Even at my best I could not walk to the lavatory at cruising height without oxygen, though I could sit and watch a movie with minimal O but that absolutely depends on your personal condition. I could never sleep and maintain 89% oxygen without continuous O which for a long trip requires enough batteries to run a car.
I would never dream of buying a POC without being absolutely sure that it meets my medical needs. I would rent one first to be certain. Remember this: What you read on this website is what people believe to be the truth but none of us are experts and I can guarantee some of the info is wrong – not out of malice but because POCs are sold by salesmen. Caveat emptor! POCs with enough batteries to fly transatlantic cost $3000 USD. The smaller the POC the more batteries you need and the less oxygen output.
I have probably forgotten some stuff as I haven’t flown for exactly 2 years. If you think of anything you want to know – Ask.
MemberJune 22, 2021 at 1:13 pm
Hi everyone –
I finally received my POC which the doctor ordered back in March. I just got it last week. My oxygen supplier transferred me to another branch of their company. This one is even further away from where I live but it seems as this new branch is much willing to provide good customer service.
Another thought about exchanging equipment. If people live near a church or non-profit that loans out medical equipment free of charge to people, have them ask if they have POC’s available. My local church in Ohio has a Helping Hands Ministry which lends out hospital beds, wheelchairs, walkers, etc. They don’t normal have POC’s but someone recently donated one to them and they have it loaned out to someone in the community. When they no longer need it, it will be returned to the church to be lent out again. Not sure how many churches or non-profits provide this service. My church delivers and picks up the larger medical equipment. The people that use this service are so appreciative that it is available. Their is no charge to borrow any of the equipment.
As far as travel some of the oxygen supply companies in the US can help people who are traveling secure oxygen when they reach their location. My supplier is based out of FL and stated that they could set me up with home oxygen after arriving at my destination. They requested a 2 week notice before I traveled. I am planning a trip to FL in the fall. Right now I only need oxygen when exercising or on long walks. I went to the gym yesterday and then later walked outside. I would not have been able to do this with supplemental oxygen.
Hope everyone has a great day.
MemberJune 22, 2021 at 3:42 pm
I have traveled to Alaska using an Inogen concentrator. This is what I needed:
- A form signed by my Doc saying I should use O2 while traveling. Most Airlines have a form available.
- An O2 concentrator which has been OKed by the FAA.
- Enough batteries for my Concentrator to last 1 ½ the time of the flight. (Carried in a pack so it does not go as checked luggage)
- My AC adapter for my Inogen. (Most airlines now have 110-volt plugs at your seat so you will not have to use your batteries. But they still require them.)
- Notify your airlines that you will be using O2 during your flight when you make your reservations.
Most airlines will have an online help section where you can get this information. Use the help section for each of the airlines you plan to fly on as some may have different requirements.
And have fun!
MemberJuly 2, 2021 at 3:35 pm
I have a Respionics Simply Go POC that has pulse and constant flow capabilities and have flown overseas several times w/o difficulty and one of my sons lives in Montana at 4000 feet an have spent time in Butte at 8000feet w/o difficulty. I use continuous flow at night and pulse during the day. I have flown with Delta and United and overseas carriers, initially,I needed a medical clearance, but more recently I filled out a form with the name of the POC
MemberJuly 2, 2021 at 4:09 pm
What form and where did you get it?
MemberJuly 2, 2021 at 9:28 pm
oxygentogo.com is who handles my poc via delta
MemberJuly 13, 2021 at 4:29 pm
Hey Duncan, thanks for the outline, and everyone else for their thoughts and advice. I am new to IPF as of 01/21 and am doing well with vital capacity, blood oxygen, med tolerance, etc. I think I’m breathing normally for being 75 and my blood/oxygen was 95 after a 6 minute walk today. I am planning two trips in October, both requiring air travel, and am concerned as to how I will be then compared to today. How much lead time should I allow before committing to needing O2 and a POC? I realize that its probably impossible to predict an exacerbation or any degree of deterioration. Can I rent a POC? How long does it take to procure one? Who are reputable dealers? What is reasonable cost? I see the Inogen G5 has a battery life of 13 hrs. which sounds like 1 1/2 times a flight duration to Croatia. How many extra batteries should you take with and how heavy are they? Any experiences and/or advice is appreciated.
MemberJuly 13, 2021 at 5:13 pm
Your welcome Bill
You need a Dr’s Rx before you can get O2 equipment or supplies. But hearing that your 95 after doing a 6-minute walk (I assume without supplemental Oxygen) it sounds like you are just beginning. That is great!
Why did you see the Dr about your breathing? Was it just starting for you to bother you when you were swimming or running?
I understand that there are O2 concentrators that you can rent (again with a Dr’s Rx) buy are you on Medicare if so and you are qualified that would pick up that expense.
The 13-hour battery life is probably on its lowest setting. That my not be what you will require.
I do like Inogen. They have been good to me. I currently have a G4 and a G5. The G4 is fairly light and weighs 2.4 lbs with a single battery that would last about 5 hours on setting 2 I liked to travel with that one as it was not heavy. But now for travel, I need to take the G5 which is 4.7 lbs with the single battery and goes 6.6 hours on setting 2.
I have backpacks for each but do try to use the G4 when possible because of the weight.
I don’t know where you live but if it gets below 41 degrees your concentrator does not work well.
Are you into Zoom?? If so it might be simpler for us to have a zoom call.
MemberJuly 13, 2021 at 6:06 pm
Important Question: Are you sure that the G5 weight includes a battery? The spec sheet doesn’t say that. This is a single battery too. If you actually have a G5, could you weigh it? I have not seen a battery labelled G4 or 5 but other POC batteries run a couple of pounds. Batteries to get to Europe from the west coast area are a significant weight.
These POCs are high priced and if you are buying them yourself be sure they fit your needs.
There are companies that rent POCs but also batteries and batteries alone if that’s what you need.
They are easy to find on the net. There is quite a spread of prices and the biggest are not necessarily the cheapest. Also look carefully at the terms. Sometimes just a couple of hours difference can mean a big increase in price.
I’m interested in any info on air travel,
MemberJuly 13, 2021 at 9:05 pm
Replying to Duncan and Bill, My former PCP in MA inherited me from my original who retired. Appreciating my 50+ yrs of smoking he thought it a good idea to get at CT Scan to see my lung condition. Scan came back negative. We agreed to repeat annually and the next two came back negative. We moved to RI in 09/2020 and my new PCP and I agreed to continue scanning. That one came back positive with scarring present. Followed up with a pulmonologist who ordered a deeper scan that came back positive. More testing with the walk, lung volume, ruling out arthritis, and a Dx of IPF. I was declared a low “normal”.
I think I will investigate First Class Medical and get the scoop on rentals, battery durations and weights. I know British Airways and KLM has a MD form they want filled out which I’ll download.
I have an Appt. next month with my PCP and Pulmonologist in September and have one of them fill them out as well as the Rx.
I am not understanding the cabin pressure issue. If cabins are pressurized and people are breathing normally at 30+,000 feet why are we exposed to inadequate oxygen above 10,000 ft?
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