New to Oxygen

April 11th, 2012 | Author: COPD Coach

Dear Coach,

My doctor has told me that I need to be on oxygen 24/7. I work full time because I have to.  I am 61 and single and live alone. I work for an international Flavor/Fragrance company in the Customer Service Department. How do you approach your boss, Human Resources, and your colleagues that you need to have oxygen all day?  I have no idea how or exactly what to do.

I have to find out the best oxygen unit that I can get and bring to work (it would have to last approx. 9 to 10 hours).

Any help or suggestions or experiences you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

New to Oxygen

Dear New to Oxygen,


The problems you are facing are like many an individual with COPD might face. As far as approaching your boss or the Human Resources department, I would have your doctor draft a letter explaining that you require full time supplemental oxygen, as well as specifying any other accommodations you might require, such as access to elevators, closer rest rooms, the size of your work space, or even in your case a “fragrance free” work environment. Presenting the letter will also explain to your employer the necessity that you might require occasional time off for medical appointments or illness related to your COPD. Actually, having to use oxygen will probably lessen the time off you require and allow you to be more productive, which is a definite plus for your employer! There are laws that protect your right to work and expect reasonable accommodations, laws which your HR Department is probably very familiar with. If any problems come up, don’t hesitate to contact an attorney.

As far as explaining to your colleagues, I think that no explanation is necessary. When they see you using supplemental oxygen they should  pretty much make the connection  after noticing that you were getting out of breath. Hopefully they are aware that you have COPD. Some may come up and ask you about using oxygen. Just be open and honest and tell them that your COPD has advanced to the point where your require it. Your mention of COPD and use of oxygen might well prove to be a “teachable moment” for many of your fellow workers who are at risk for COPD! In any case, why be concerned or embarrassed – remind them that we all require oxygen….you just need a little more of it!

Your last question is a little harder to answer without knowing more about your work environment. No portable oxygen concentrator is going to have the kind of battery life you specify. This is especially true with continuous flow concentrators. Much will depend on the type of concentrator (pulse or continuous) that your doctor orders. There are pulse units that have a duration of 5 hours up to 8 hours. As far and continuous flow models, because of the volume of oxygen they must produce, most models only will get a couple hours in continuous mode. In either case, you can purchase extra batteries, however you don’t want to get into a situation where you having to carry several extra batteries along with the unit.

If your work allows you to be stationary, a possible alternative might be to purchase a home concentrator to use in the office, and only use the portable unit when you need to move around or to get to and from work. Also in this scenario, if you are able to plug in your portable unit to AC power for a substantial part of the day, you might eliminate the need to carry a lot of extra batteries.

As I am writing this reply, I am struck by what a friend once told me. “People with COPD can do about anything that anyone else can, they just have to plan a little more, and do things a little differently.” I feel like your letter is a good example of this. I am quite sure that working with your oxygen supplier and your doctor (and maybe including your employer), you will find a solution that will continue to allow you to be a productive worker.

Please let us know how you are doing, and if we can be of any additional help.

The COPD Coach

Ask the Expert is aimed at providing information for individuals with COPD to take to your doctor, and is not in any way intended to be medical advice.

If you would like to submit a question to the Coaches Corner email us We would love to hear your questions and comments. You can address your emails to any of the following: COPD Coach, Caregiver Coach, COPD Doctor or COPD RT.


  1. Cyndi says:

    Where do you find what regulations if any are required in the workplace for an employee on O2 24/7? As an employer we want to accommodate in any way necessary as well as keep all of our employees safe… Local health department and OSHA have nothing for me

  2. flora says:

    I just revently was put on oxygen 24/7 and ssd still turned me down i had to get an attorney and file a appeal wat do u think my chances will be

    • robert says:

      there gonna tell ya no, that money they took fica, they was just kiddin, they will laugh all day and yrs watching you try and knowing there not gonna give ya crap!

  3. Dana says:

    I am 31 yrs old i have copd i have struggled with it since 2011 i have 3 small kids i just got put on oxygen i have had a hard time adjusting to it my 8yr is afraid that kids will make fun of her if they find out about it i tried to go without it but i passed out with my 2yr old in my arms i am trying to continue to work but i cant take my O2 with me i build homes any advice would be great….

  4. As a COPD patient it is normal for you to feel that way but having limitations you can still have a better life. As I know the only oxygen concentrator that last longer is the easypulse or the simplygo but no oxygen concentrator that could last 10 hours maximum unless you have extra batteries for that.

  5. Barbara says:

    I have been put on oxygen 24/7 just within the past two weeks.After reading about you I commend you on still trying to work. I have been stressing about this for myself, because I have always worked and it takes two incomes.GOOD LUCK!

  6. Marvin W. says:

    Dear Coach:
    I would like to qualify your quote from someone that said: “People with COPD can do about anything that anyone else can, they just have to plan a little more, and do things a little differently.”

    I would agree with this up to the point where the individual reaches the severe and very severe stages of COPD. As much as I would like to “do about anything anyone else can do”, I have to realize my limitations.


    • Katelyn Harding says:

      I will pass along your question to the Coaches!

    • COPD Coach says:

      Truth is, we all have limitations. The statement was to offer encouragement that we can still experience joy in life and even our dreams, despite our limitations.

      I know several people with very severe COPD that are still doing amazing things including participating in marathons. Granted they are not winning, but they are out trying and that is what is important A friend with severe COPD and an FEV1 of 20 decided he wanted to participate in a hike for lung health. With the help of friends and his pulmonary rehab he walked a mile! That seemingly simple act was a triumph for him, and a blessing to his fellow COPD friends!That same person had a dream of doing a road trip to meet his grandchild for the first time. With planning and support of his O2 supplier he drove 1500 miles. He told me after that “if God had taken him then he would have had the best 10 days of his life.

      The point is that our dreams are what keep us alive, and just because you have COPD it does not mean that you give up! Yes, you may have limitations, and it is indeed important to know your limitations, but that does not have to stop you from participation in some form or another.

      Personally, I am classified as “very severe”. I still travel between 50,000 and 100,000 miles a year. I still enjoy using and maintaining my vintage boat and model A. I may require some help from time to time, but I WILL NOT allow my COPD to keep me from at least trying to achieve my dreams! Recently I built a room in my basement. What I found out is that it could be built “one board at a time”! Sure it took awhile, and did require some assistance from good friends, but in the end, it was built!

      If anything, my COPD has magnified the successes I have because of my limitations, just as it has allowed me to appreciate and treasure every moment of every day. Maybe that is the important thing to take away from the letter! A friend with COPD once told me “in my mind I still run”. I guess that pretty much says it all!

  7. Philip says:

    Since you are in need of O2 24/7 you need to be applying for Social Security Disability and you will automatically be allowed to use Medicare as well. In addition, you can continue to work while on disability. This should help you if you need to take time from work due to a COPD flare-up. Once you turn 65 you can through open enrollment get a Medicare Supplement plan as well. AT that time you will be taken off of Disability and placed on the regular social security benefits. The amount you receive monthly will be the same.

    • Theresa says:

      I thought you had to wait two years to get Medicare once approved for SSD? I was put on oxygen 24/7 just a few months ago. I am 58, and work close to 60 hours a week. I have a Respironics Easy Go portable pulse concentrator. I also have Multiple Sclerosis (mild). That’s why I’m still working, could never be without health insurance…

  8. Cynthia C. says:

    By the time I had to go on Oxygen 24/7, Social Security calculated that I had been fully disabled for over 3 years already and approved me with no problems.

  9. Leslie says:

    I completely agree with all the recommendations but most of all I want to commend you personally for working! I think many would agree that although you need the oxygen you cant stop living! It’s nothing to be embarrassed of, you are providing for yourself! That’s deserves a pat on the back!

  10. madisonhartwell says:

    If you are on 24/7 oxygen, why are you not on disability?

    • Beth says:

      I thought you was not allowed to be working in order to apply for ssdi or ssi. I am 52 years old and have copd and emphysema. I work in a bakery at wal-mart and even with my oxygen (which is 24/7) it tears me up with my breathing and going in and out of the freezer wipes me out competely and I have a very hard time lifting 40lb boxes all day. I get fatigued very easily and hurt in my chest area but i need the income and insurance which pays nothing and makes it so very hard for me to go to the doctor so i more or less suffer and push myself to the limits my whole body is in total shut down mode when i get home. I am not able to do anything after work except collaspe on the couch and stay there or bed.

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