Respiratory needs are varied and selecting the right aid is crucial. Everyone is different and you want to select a tool that will meet all of your respiratory needs. Use this guide, but we also recommend consulting your physician to make the safest choice.
What are Tracheostomy Tubes?
“Trach tubes” are used after a tracheostomy to keep the stoma (or opening) clear. All trach tubes have a primary tube called the outer cannula, an inner tube called the inner cannula, and a neck plate called the flange, which rests against your neck and covers the stoma. The flange has holes that let you use ties or a holder to secure it to your neck.
How should I pick the right trach tube for me?
There are a few primary considerations to keep in mind when ordering a trach tube based on your clinical condition, your stage in the healing process, and your doctor’s recommendation. In particular, you will have to select a style and a size, and we can help navigate to the best one for you:
- Cuffed vs. Uncuffed: Cuffed tubes have an attached inflatable device that helps direct air flow. These are typically used if you have swallowing difficulties or if you are using a ventilator.
- Fenestrated: Fenestrated tubes have holes in the primary tube (outer cannula) that help assess your ability to breathe through the normal oral or nasal route. This style of tube is usually used when weaning off of the trach device.
- Disposable vs. Reusable Inner Cannula: The inner cannula, which lets you clean the device at regular intervals without fully removing the trach tube, can be disposable or reusable. Reusable cannulas should be cleaned several times per day. Disposable cannulas should be replaced as often as your doctor prescribes — likely 1-3 times per day. With disposable cannulas, make sure you choose the same size as your device.
- Size: Most trach tubes use “Jackson” sizing, which refers to the diameter of the tube itself, and come in sizes 4 (smallest), 6, 8, and 10 (largest). When looking at sizes, “ID” refers to the inner diameter and “OD” refers to the outer diameter (in mm). If you are replacing a trach tube, make sure you double-check the size you were using before. If you haven’t used one before, consult with your doctor or nurse on the best sizing for you.
What are nasal cannulas?
Nasal cannulas are small, flexible tubes that are used to help get more oxygen directly to your respiratory system. They are typically used by people who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), sleep apnea, or other physiological or environmental conditions that prevent their bodies from receiving enough oxygen to perform optimally. Connected to an external oxygen source, nasal cannulas work by sending a stream of medical-grade oxygen to your nose.
How should I choose the right one for me?
Nasal cannulas come in a few different shapes and sizes so that they can be used more comfortably. While your care provider should help you pick the best option, here are some factors to consider:
- Size: There are three major sizes of cannulas — adult, pediatric, and infant. Picking among the three typically works for most people.
- Straight vs. Flared Tips: While most cannulas have straight tips, some cannulas come with flared tips that fit better for people with slightly larger nostrils.
- Curved vs. Straight Prongs: Many patients prefer cannulas with curved prongs because they are better able to match the curved shape of their nasal canals. Some prongs can even be trimmed slightly to be further customized.
- High-Flow vs. Standard-Flow: As the name suggests, high-flow cannulas can deliver oxygen at higher rates because they have larger tube openings that allow for greater air flow.
What are nebulizers?
A nebulizer is a tool that turns liquid medication into a mist that can be inhaled and delivered straight to your lungs. It is used for conditions like asthma, cystic fibrosis, and other respiratory illnesses. Commonly associated with inhalers, nebulizers are usually more effective because their mist reaches farther than the inhaler spray.
How should I choose a nebulizer?
There are three main types of nebulizers.
- Atomizer Jet (aka "Compressor") Nebulizer: Uses an aerosol compressor to vaporize medicine that is then delivered to the lungs. These nebulizers are the most commonly used.
- Ultrasonic Nebulizer: Uses high-frequency sound waves to administer the medicine. They are usually more effective than atomizer nebulizers, offer faster delivery, and operate more quietly.
- Mesh Nebulizer: The newest form of nebulizer that moves liquid formulations through a fine mesh to generate aerosol. Mesh nebulizers are usually the most expensive but can offer the most effective treatment.
When it comes to sizing, nebulizers can come in a smaller and more portable battery-powered size or a larger size that needs to be plugged into an outlet.
What comes with a nebulizer?
Although nebulizers can take different forms, a nebulizer kit typically comes with a compressor, medication bowl/cup, mouthpiece/mask, and tubing.
- Compressor: Base of the system that pushes air through the medication cup, turning the medication inside into mist.
- Medication Bowl / Cup: A container in which you measure and hold your medication.
- Mouthpiece / Mask: The opening through which you inhale your medication in mist form.
- Tubing: Connects the compressor to the cup, allowing air to travel through.
What are CPAP masks?
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy is a treatment used for sleep apnea and other breathing conditions. CPAP therapy gently provides a stream of air through a mask while you sleep to keep your airways open. This eliminates any breathing disruptions, allowing you to sleep more comfortably.
The CPAP mask is a core part of any CPAP setup. Masks come in a variety of shapes and sizes that are designed to accommodate different needs. Some masks may cover most of your face while others cover just your nose. Regardless of what mask you have, it’s important that it fits comfortably.
How should I decide which mask is right for me?
CPAP masks typically come in three sizes, which correspond with the severity of your sleep apnea or breathing problems:
- Nasal Pillows: The most lightweight option, often only covering just the nostrils. Nasal Pillows are great for active sleepers and those who tend to feel claustrophobic or want a solution that is easy to use while awake.
- Nasal Masks: The most popular option that comes with the largest variety of sizes to help everyone find a comfortable option. They typically cover most of your nose.
- Face Masks: A full-face mask that is the best option for anyone who has nasal congestion or uses their mouth to breathe at night. These masks are also best for high CPAP pressure settings due to their wider surface area
What is a pulse oximeter?
A pulse oximeter, or “pulse ox,” is a small, electronic medical device that clips onto your skin and measures both your heart rate and the amount of oxygen in your blood. Your care provider may recommend you use a pulse ox if you experience shortness of breath or have a known heart or lung condition such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, sleep apnea, or a history of heart attacks. The devices can also give your provider feedback if you are undergoing a specific treatment, using oxygen therapy or a ventilator for example.
How should I decide which one is right for me?
Most pulse oximeters are fairly similar but may come in various sizes and with differing technological capabilities. When choosing your pulse oximeter, you should work with your provider to pick one that responds to you well, is easy for you to use and read, and is able to get the readings your provider wants to track. At home, a good way to tell if your oximeter is functioning properly is to perform several tests on different fingers to see if you get similar results. Here are some of the common types of pulse oximeters:
- Portable Fingertip Pulse Oximeter: The most common type of pulse oximeter is also the most inexpensive. While it's easy to use in the comfort of your home, it doesn't always provide an accurate reading for those with circulatory problems. It's primarily designed for spot checks, instead of continuous monitoring.
- Handheld or Standalone Pulse Oximeter: Primarily used in hospitals and has a clip and wire attached to a handheld or standalone monitor. The clip can be attached to a finger, earlobe or toe in an emergency situation. It's great for both spot checks and continuous monitoring. The monitor is usually larger and can record your information for several hours at a time. Some of these models can come with additional functionality such as an alarm if your pulse rate goes outside of a designated range.
- Wrist Pulse Oximeter: This oximeter has a small fingertip sensor that is attached to a wristwatch style recording system that continuously monitors your blood oxygen saturation level and pulse rate. It's a great solution for anyone who requires more flexibility when monitoring daily activities or for an overnight sleep study.