High Flow Oxygen Therapy

High flow oxygen therapy delivers oxygen, through nasal prongs, at higher than normal flow rates of traditional oxygen therapy. This therapy is sometimes used for people who are in respiratory distress.

What is high flow oxygen therapy?

High flow oxygen therapy is a breathing support. Continuous, warmed (to 37 degrees) and humidified oxygen is given through a tube placed in the nostrils.

Only offered if traditional oxygen therapy isn’t helping, high flow oxygen therapy helps reduce the effort your body needs to put into breathing. By decreasing the effort of breathing and creating a small amount of positive pressure in the upper airways, this therapy helps improve oxygen delivery.

When compared to traditional oxygen therapy, delivered through a face mask, high flow continuous oxygen therapy offers:

  • Better clearance of fluids (secretions) due to humidified air
  • Better tolerated and more comfortable
  • Easier to communicate during therapy
  • Easier to eat and drink during therapy
  • Less mouth dryness
  • Reduced airway inflammation.

Why do I need high flow oxygen therapy?

High flow oxygen therapy is for in people in respiratory distress who still have low oxygen levels despite trying traditional oxygen therapy.

High flow oxygen therapy supports breathing in people with:

What are the risks of having high flow oxygen therapy?

High flow oxygen therapy in a non-invasive therapy, meaning it doesn’t require breaking the skin. Generally, there are very few risks associated with high flow oxygen therapy.

Occasionally, the nasal prongs may become blocked if there is a lot of mucous.

How do I prepare for high flow oxygen therapy?

You are only given high flow oxygen therapy if traditional oxygen therapy has had little effect, so there’s nothing you need to do to prepare.

Before you are given the therapy, your medical team will arrange a chest X-Ray and blood tests to check how well your lungs are working.

What happens during high flow oxygen therapy?

During the therapy:

  • You will be positioned upright in a bed, supported with pillows
  • You will be fitted with high flow nasal prongs which are soft
  • The nasal prongs will be placed inside your nostrils, then secured with an elastic string which goes around behind your head
  • The high flow oxygen will be delivered through your nose
  • The oxygen will feel warm and create a full feeling in your lungs
  • You will be asked to breathe in and out through your nose
  • The percentage and flow rate of oxygen will be set by your medical team, depending on your needs
  • You may be able to eat and drink whilst high flow oxygen therapy is in use (your doctor will confirm at the time)
  • The flow and percentage of oxygen therapy may be reduced if and when your condition improves.

What happens after high flow oxygen therapy?

When it’s time for your treatment to finish, you may be transitioned to traditional oxygen therapy. Or, your oxygen therapy may be stopped completely.

You will continue to be monitored regularly, and your medical and nursing team will check your breathing and plan your next steps and ongoing treatment plan.

If you have any questions about your medical condition, or whether you may need high flow oxygen therapy, speak to your medical team.