Simple Steps to Prevent Dryness Caused by Oxygen Therapy


Lesley Williams

Lesley has been a Registered Respiratory Therapist for 35 years. In her role here at Apria, Lesley trains clinical staff with new equipment and supports clinical program initiatives in the Southeastern United States. In her free time you can find Lesley spending time with her kids and grandkids, or out enjoying the sun on her boat.

Nose and Mouth Dryness is Common Among People on Oxygen Therapy.

For people with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and other chronic respiratory conditions, oxygen therapy (also called supplemental oxygen) has been used for decades. That’s because it safely and effectively delivers much-needed oxygen to help them breathe more easily and improve their quality of life. 

But despite its advantages, some people complain that oxygen therapy causes an uncomfortable, dry feeling in their nose, throat, and mouth. This is particularly true when they first start oxygen therapy. The reason: the extra oxygen being delivered reduces the amount of mucous or saliva that normally keeps their mouth and throat moist. 

Fortunately, there are numerous and relatively simple methods to help treat this common but preventable problem.

Do You Have Symptoms of Dryness?

A dry mouth (xerostomia) can lead to:

  • Sore throats
  • A scratchy voice
  • Trouble chewing
  • Thick saliva

A dry nose (rhinitis sicca) can lead to:

  • Nosebleeds
  • Nasal irritation, itchiness, crusting, and cracking

 The Importance of Treating Dryness

A dry mouth or throat can cause such serious complications as:

  • Painful fungal infections in your mouth or gums
  • Tooth decay and cavities due to the reduced saliva in your mouth. Saliva contains antibacterial properties that decrease the build-up of harmful bacteria

Even more, if your oxygen therapy is causing you discomfort, you may be tempted to discontinue it. So it’s best to address any issues to ensure continued success with your therapy! 

Following are 6 methods for you to do just that.

1.  Humidify

For liter flows above 5 add a humidifier to your oxygen delivery system. The humidifier heats and moistens the oxygen being delivered to reduce nose and mouth dryness. For lower flows, 1 to 4, other options to humidify the room air often work best. 

To add even more moisture to the air you breathe, use a room humidifier in your home. You’ll find these particularly helpful while you sleep—and especially if you tend to breathe through your mouth.

Don’t have a room humidifier? Fill a kettle with water, then turn on the stove until it boils. You’ll see moist water vapor stream out of the nozzle, humidifying your home. 

2. Hydrate! 

Make hydration a priority. Drink lots of water to keep your mucous membranes moist and help you avoid dryness.

3. Use Moisturizers, Sprays, and Gels

Nasal and mouth sprays are a simple, effective way to restore moisture. Most are available over the counter. Your doctor will help you select the most appropriate option.

Water-based gels help prevent dryness, irritation, and cracking of the nose. But avoid any petroleum-based products, such as petroleum jelly, (Vaseline, Neosporin ointment), which are a fire hazard when used with oxygen tanks.

If the symptoms of dryness continue, your doctor may prescribe a nasal decongestant, antihistamine, or steroid medication.

4. Watch What You Eat and Drink

Some foods can dry out your mouth, such as those high in sugar and drinks with alcohol and caffeine. 

Instead, consume foods that create bacteria-rich saliva while keeping your mouth moist, including vegetables, apples, and citrus fruit such as oranges, grapefruit, and tangerines.

5. Brush and Floss Daily

Be sure to take care of your oral health! It’s good for your teeth, your gums—and your overall health.

6. Maintain Your Oxygen Therapy Equipment

The various components of your oxygen delivery system must be regularly cleaned. These include your compressed oxygen or liquid oxygen tank, oxygen concentrator, nasal cannula, facemask, tubing, and humidifier. 

Cleaning helps prevent the buildup of bacteria, mold, dust, and germs, which may cause such conditions as pneumonia or other respiratory infections. And because COPD weakens the immune system, you are even more prone to illness.

For more information: How to properly maintain your oxygen therapy equipment.

Be Done With Dry!

Having a dry nose, mouth, or throat due to oxygen therapy isn’t a health hazard, but it is certainly uncomfortable. Following the tips offered here may help you easily overcome dryness. If the condition continues, contact your doctor. 

Or reach out to Apria. We are a leader in the field of COPD management and have specialists on staff who can answer questions and offer the information you need to make your oxygen therapy a success!

AD-NewsletterBanner-RhythmPOCs (1)

1. Leader, D. (2022, October 05). An Overview of Dry Nose in COPD. Verywell Health.
2. Hoyt, K. (Updated 2021, January 7). Nose Dryness With Supplemental Oxygen.
3. Kingsley, C. Tips To Prevent Dryness From Oxygen Therapy. Lung Institute.

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About the AuthorApria

Apria is a leading provider of home healthcare equipment and related services across the USA, offering a comprehensive range of products and services for in-home care and delivery of respiratory therapy, obstructive sleep apnea treatment, and negative pressure wound therapy, along with additional equipment and services.