Hypoxemia is a condition characterized by low levels of oxygen in the blood. It can be caused by a myriad of conditions, including pneumonia, asthma, and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Hypoxemia is considered a serious medical condition that requires prompt medical attention.
This condition can sometimes occur in newborns with congenital heart disease or defects. In fact, physicians often measure the levels of oxygen in the blood of newborns to screen for congenital heart defects.
Preterm infants may also be vulnerable to hypoxemia, especially if they have been placed on a mechanical ventilator. If your baby is diagnosed with hypoxemia, the doctor may order home supplemental oxygen. Part of your training performed by Brotherston will be oxygen safety.
Home Oxygen Safety for Babies
If your baby is not able to get sufficient oxygen from room air due to hypoxemia, he or she will need oxygen therapy at home. More often, the oxygen is delivered through a small tube known as a nasal cannula that snugly fits into the nose and around the face.
To ensure safety, be sure to notify your electric company if you are planning to use an oxygen system at home. That way, your house will be given priority during power outages. Also, have a backup tank available, and learn how to use it.
In case of an emergency power outage, you will need to use your back up, portable oxygen tank, go to a nearby location that has electricity or the closest hospital to plug in your oxygen equipment. You may also consider investing in a backup generator to help during power outages.
Here some additional oxygen safety precautions at home:
- Avoid heat sources or open flames around the oxygen system
- Post “No Smoking” signs in the window.
- Pin an “Oxygen in Use” sign on your front door.
- Ensure that all electrical equipment in the area near your oxygen equipment are properly grounded.
- Keep the oxygen system in a room where it won’t be knocked over.
- Store your oxygen cylinder in a stable stand, or lying on the floor.
- Keep your oxygen equipment in an area that is properly ventilated.
- Prevent trips and falls by properly securing loose cords and extra tubing.
- Secure your floor mats and rugs to prevent trips or falls.
- Avoid using extension cords with your medical equipment.
- Clear doorways, rooms, and hallways to provide adequate space for your baby’s oxygen system.
When refilling your liquid oxygen tank, avoid skin contact since frost buildup can be harmful. Always follow these oxygen safety precautions for the best interest of your baby.
Caring for your Baby on Home Oxygen Therapy
Always use the oxygen as directed by your baby’s doctor since too much or too little can be harmful. Be sure to adjust the oxygen as advised by your baby’s doctor. Typically, your baby may need more oxygen when eating or engaging in heightened activity, or starting to get sick. Keep your baby’s doctor informed about continued need for increased oxygen flow.
In areas where the oxygen tubes are secured to the face, use the right tender grip to protect your baby’s skin. Avoid using petroleum-based products like Vaseline on your baby’s face. More importantly, take your baby for regular doctor check-ups.
Signs of Breathing Problems in Babies
You should consistently look out for signs of breathing problems in your baby, such as:
- Very fast breathing
- Struggling for air
- Heavy breathing (when the ribs appear with each breath)
- Widened nostrils when breathing
- Fussiness or irritability for no reason
- Pale skin color
- Sweaty or clammy skin
- Blue-gray around the mouth
- Poor sucking or faster breathing when feeding
- Frequently stopping to rest while feeding
- Pulling away from the breast or bottle while feeding
What to Do If Your Baby Shows Signs of Breathing Problems
If your baby shows one or more of the above signs of breathing problems, check the equipment to see if the tank is turned on. Do the gauges indicate there is adequate oxygen in the tank? Also, check if the flow rate is correct and the tubing is connected and kinked.
Sometimes, the nasal cannula may be clogged with mucus, affecting the flow of oxygen. If that is the case, place the nasal cannula in a clean glass of water and look for bubbles. If there are no bubbles, clean the tubing with a damp cloth or replace it altogether. Look for kinks or disconnections in the tubing.
The Bottom Line
Caring for a baby with hypoxemia requires dedication and utmost hygiene. Keep your baby away from individuals with other infections as much as you can. This means staying at home most of the time and discouraging unnecessary visits. If you notice sudden shortness of breath, be sure to seek emergency medical care!