Oxygen Toxicity

Oxygen Toxicity

Oxygen may be essential to life but it must be received in a certain concentration to achieve the desired biological benefit. If this gas is inhaled in concentrated form, it can be toxic to human and may lead to several symptoms [1, 2].

What is Oxygen?

Oxygen is the gas that is essential for survival and makes about 21% of the external air. The delivery of oxygen must be adequate and it should be properly absorbed and distributed to tissues to ensure the optimum cellular function.

Exchange of gases occur in the alveoli wherein oxygen gases goes into the bloodstream while carbon dioxide moves into the alveoli in order to be exhaled.

The body is able to low oxygen levels for a short period of time. If the oxygen demand is greater than the available supply, a condition known as hypoxia will occur and may cause dysfunction of different cells and organs. If this event is not corrected immediately, it will lead to irreversible cellular death [1, 2, 3, 4].

How much is Oxygen Toxicity?

The major components of external air nitrogen and oxygen wherein the former makes up about 78% and the latter comprises around 21%.

This mixture is ideal for proper ventilation and distribution of oxygen in such that nitrogen is essential in the absorption of oxygen in the body. The pressure in which oxygen is available is also an important factor. The normal pressure in which oxygen is available is at 160mmHg.

Oxygen given at increased pressure, also known as hyperbaric oxygen, is utilized as a therapy for decompression sickness, poisoning from inhalation of carbon monoxide, respiratory distress from newborn and other anaerobic infections. Individuals undergoing this treatment may also experience oxygen toxicity [1, 2, 3, 4].

What are Oxygen Toxicity symptoms?

When an individual is exposed to high levels of oxygen for a short period of time, the initial manifestations are related to the central nervous system. These individuals may present with twitching of the muscles of the hand and the perioral region.

Continued exposure may lead to nausea, vertigo and may even lead to alteration in behavior and convulsions. If the exposure is prolonged, respiratory symptoms will begin to emerge. These symptoms include dyspnea, severe coughing and chest pain [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].

What is Oxygen Toxicity management?

The management for oxygen toxicity is to monitor the presence of oxygen toxicity and the relief of symptoms that have developed. In case of oxygen toxicity related to hyperbaric oxygen treatment, suddenly stopping the oxygen flow may lead to a phenomenon known as the “oxygen off effect”.

This effect will lead to an aggravation of the presenting symptoms. Because of this, the concentration of oxygen must be decreased slowly [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].

How to prevent Oxygen Toxicity?

Oxygen deprivation dangerous and patients who are at risk for this must be placed on high concentration oxygen therapy despite the possibility of oxygen toxicity. The key to prevent the toxicity is to use the lowest level oxygen possible that is still beneficial to the patient.

Those who used high levels of oxygen such as in scuba diving should have breaks in between oxygen breathing in order to reduce the risk of oxygen toxicity [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].

  1. Collopy, K. T., Kivlehan, S. M., & Snyder, S. R. (2012, January 17). Oxygen Toxicity. Retrieved from EMS World: http://www.emsworld.com/article/10523286/oxygen-toxicity
  2. Patel, D. N., Goel, A., SB, A., Garg, P., & Lakhani, K. K. (2003). Oxygen Toxicity. Journal, Indian Academy of Clinical Medicine, 234-237.
  3. Sawatzky, D. (2016, January 11). OXYGEN TOXICITY – SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS. Retrieved from Dive Rite: http://www.diverite.com/articles/oxygen-toxicity-signs-and-symptoms/
  4. Jenkinson, S. (1993). Oxygen toxicity. New Horizon, 504-511.
  5. Mach, W. J., Thimmesch, A. R., Pierce, J. T., & Pierce, J. D. (2011). Consequences of Hyperoxia and the Toxicity of Oxygen in the Lung. Nursing Research and Practice, 1-7.

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