As a kid, we all saw people, generally the elderly, who used oxygen tanks and machines to assist them in breathing. When it comes time for a family member to use oxygen therapy, many of us don’t think of fire safety as an issue. However, oxygen is one of the key elements in fire, and therefore poses a risk anytime compressed oxygen is present. When grandma finds out she needs to depend on an oxygen machine, her first thought isn’t on safety but yours should be.

Home oxygen machines are relatively small in size, most take up less than three square feet. To set up the oxygen machine, you plug it in. Most allow you to adjust the amount of oxygen running through them, based on the doctor’s recommendations for the person using the machine. Most work by taking in air from the outside, compressing it, removing the nitrogen and other gases, then emitting pure oxygen through the breathing tubes. Some use water to assist in the process.

When setting up an oxygen machine in the home, make sure it is kept at least 5 feet from gas stoves, lighted fireplaces, woodstoves, candles, or any other sources of open flames, according to WebMD. When using oxygen, avoid using oil, grease or other flammable liquids, such as anything petroleum-based. Highly flammable materials can easily ignite in the presence of oxygen, so when in use stay away from things like this.

Oxygen tubes can dry out nasal passages, which means grandpa might need a moisturizer. When selecting moisturizers avoid things that are petroleum-based like Vaseline. Look at ingredient in moisturizers and go for ones like cocoa butter, aloe vera, or other similar, less flammable products. Water-based products are ideal to moisturize nasal passages.

Once we reach a certain age, we become a bit more stubborn, which is why grandma refuses to quit smoking. It might require you to baby-sit, put up signs, or even hide the cigarettes and lighters, but NEVER let anyone smoke while wearing oxygen or near oxygen. If grandma must smoke, which is often the case, make sure she always takes her oxygen off before going outside to light one up.

When securing your oxygen tank, make sure it is solid and secure. Since it is compressed air, it has the potential to explode or even launch like a missile. Make yourself completely familiar with the equipment so you can ensure it is safe and functional. Talk with the manufacturer and have their number somewhere you can easily find in case you have any questions. Before the oxygen is installed, test your smoke and heat detectors to ensure they work. Since oxygen machines are loud, they are often placed in rooms we don’t use as often. If this is the case, you may want to consider upgrading your fire protection to an inter-connected system like Crossfire Alarms, so you know if that room has become a hazard.

Oxygen therapy is a great way to help those with breathing issues continue life on their terms. If someone in your home needs oxygen, make sure everyone in the home knows the safety issues that come with the machine, and know how important it is to handle oxygen safely.