Turn It Off: A Patient's Advice About Oxygen and Smoking

'A Big Blaze in My Face'

Gary lived to tell the painful tale of causing his oxygen delivery system to ignite a fire with a cigarette. “I woke up to a big blaze in my face,” he says.

In the video above, Gary explains what his smoking-with-oxygen routine was. “I thought I was a smart enough individual that it wouldn’t happen to me,” he says. He didn’t think he needed to turn the machine off, just remove the tube from his nose and “throw it on the floor a good distance from me.”

Gary learned that wasn't good enough, and he does things differently now. He turns the machine off before smoking. He offers his story in hopes that it won't happen to someone else.

Oxygen and Fire Safety Tips

  1. Never smoke while using oxygen
  2. Warn visitors not to smoke when you are using oxygen
  3. Post signs: “No Smoking—Oxygen”
  4. Emergency personnel and visitors need to be aware of the presence of oxygen in the home
  5. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby
  6. Use smoke detectors and maintain them (check them and replace batteries regularly)
  7. Do not run oxygen tubing or electric wires under rugs, blankets, cushions, furniture
  8. Keep oxygen 10 feet from any source of heat
  9. Oxygen should be stored in well-ventilated areas. Do not store in a closet or under the bed.
  10. Oxygen should be used in well-ventilated areas. It builds up and concentrates around clothes, curtains, bedding.
  11. Know what is flammable, and know what serves as a source of ignition:
    • Use a properly grounded electrical outlet
    • Electric appliances can spark and ignite an oxygen fire
    • Aerosol sprays, paint and thinner, Vaseline® and Vicks® VapoRub™ are easily ignited

Through our Home Medical Equipment (HME) teams, VITAS provides home medical equipment, including oxygen tanks, to our patients as part of the Medicare hospice benefit. Our dedicated team members also provide training and support on using the equipment. 


Get our oxygen safety guide for hospice patients.


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