Oxygen therapy in MND/ALS
Oxygen should only be used with caution for people living with MND/ALS - find out what you need to know
Oxygen therapy (given by a face mask or nasal tube) is used frequently in hospital. Some people have it at home for longterm breathing problems. It is a common misconception that ventilation is giving oxygen – it is just normal room air, but under slight pressure.
It is really important to be aware that unmonitored oxygen therapy can be damaging and potentially life threatening for anyone with MND/ALS. It affects the balance of gas exchange – how your body takes in oxygen and gets rid of the waste gas carbon dioxide.
Anyone with respiratory changes in MND/ALS may have a higher level of carbon dioxide, which which can cause symptoms such as fatigue and headaches. However, giving oxygen therapy can slow down breathing and lead to dangerously high levels of carbon dioxide in the blood.
In certain circumstances, oxygen can be given at low levels, when felt to be essential. However, the person must be closely monitored. Regular blood gas level tests must be done. These will detect if carbon dioxide levels are too high.
Top tip: The MND Association provide an alert wristband. This warns healthcare staff to be cautious about giving oxygen.