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Oxygen alert card

Patient information A-Z

Who is the leaflet for? What is its aim?

This leaflet is to give all patients and their relatives information on the oxygen alert card. In this leaflet you will find information on the purpose of the card, why it is used and what you need to do with it at home.

Alert Card

Following your recent admission to hospital it was found that when unwell, you could be sensitive to being given too much oxygen. As a consequence, the waste gas (carbon dioxide or CO₂) could go up and put you at risk of becoming more unwell. To reduce the risk of this happening in the future you have been given an oxygen alert card. In the event of you becoming unwell, you should show the paramedics/ healthcare professionals the alert card to make them aware of your oxygen sensitivity. This will tell them to closely monitor your oxygen levels and watch out for any signs of rising waste gas.

Image of an oxygen alert card

Oxygen and carbon dioxide

When we breathe in, our body takes in the air and uses the oxygen in it to fuel the working of our body. As a result, our body uses the oxygen and makes carbon dioxide (CO₂) which we then breathe out with each breath. In some conditions, such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), the body is not very good at getting rid of this CO₂ and it is retained in the body. This is sometimes referred to as hypercapnia. If the levels of CO₂ increase too much in the body, then it begins to affect us in a variety of ways and makes us feel unwell.

These are some of the possible symptoms:

  • flushed skin
  • dizziness
  • morning headaches
  • sleepiness
  • drowsiness
  • rapid breathing
  • increased blood pressure
  • increased heart rate
  • muscle twitches

Too much oxygen

When unwell, people may need to be given extra oxygen to help their bodies cope but in some cases, giving too much can increase CO₂ levels and be detrimental to their health, as could not giving enough oxygen. Therefore, oxygen levels need to be closely controlled and monitored so this does not happen. Consequently, the aim is to maintain oxygen within a safe level (between 88-92%) which allows the body to continue as normal whilst minimising risks of adverse effects.

What to do now

Take the oxygen alert card home with you and keep it somewhere safe. We advise that you keep it with your medications or with your house keys. If the paramedics ever come to see you, this card should be given to them as soon as possible.

Alternative support

As a part of this plan, the Ambulance Service is also sent an alert with your details to flag this should an ambulance be called to you.

Contacts/ further information

If you have any issues or questions please do not hesitate to contact:

Name: ……………………………………………………….

Contact Number: ………………………………………

References/ Sources of evidence

We are smoke-free

Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the hospital campus. For advice and support in quitting, contact your GP or the free NHS stop smoking helpline on 0800 169 0 169.

Other formats

Help accessing this information in other formats is available. To find out more about the services we provide, please visit our patient information help page (see link below) or telephone 01223 256998.

Contact us

Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151