Skip to main content

High Flow Nasal Cannula


If you will be using HFNC at home, healthcare providers will show you how to set up and use the device. You will get information on how to clean the parts and how much extra oxygen to keep as a backup. You will also get instructions for using oxygen safely. This includes checking your blood oxygen level regularly with a pulse oximeter.

Inspiration and Expiration


Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You have chest pain.

Call your doctor if:

  • You have more shortness of breath than usual.
  • You have wheezing or other breathing problems, even when you are using oxygen.
  • Your lips or fingernails look pale or blue.
  • You feel confused or anxious.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Use oxygen safely:

  • Do not use oxygen around heat or flame. Compressed oxygen can catch on fire. Keep a fire extinguisher and a phone close by in case of a fire.
    • Keep the oxygen container 5 feet away from open flames or heaters, such as candles or hot water heaters.
    • Do not use anything flammable near your oxygen. Examples are cleaning fluids, gasoline, and aerosol sprays.
    • Do not smoke while you are using oxygen or let anyone smoke around you.
    • Tell your fire department that you have oxygen in your home if you need to call them for help.
  • Do not change the flow of your oxygen unless directed. Turn your oxygen container or concentrator off when you are not using your oxygen.
  • Put oxygen use signs on all the doors of your house. The signs let visitors and emergency workers know that oxygen is in use. Tell your electric company that you have electrical medical equipment. They will put you on a priority list to fix your power quickly if it goes out.
  • Follow instructions for use and maintenance of your oxygen equipment. Keep oxygen containers secured in an upright position. Oxygen containers may become damaged if they fall over. An oxygen container may cause serious injury if it breaks.

Use a pulse oximeter as directed:

A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. It also measures your heart rate. Your healthcare provider will show you how to use a pulse oximeter. He or she will tell you how often to check your oxygen level while you are using HFNC at home. The following are general directions:

  • The pulse oximeter may be placed on your finger, toe, or earlobe. Light is passed from the device through your blood. The pulse oximeter calculates the percentage of blood that is carrying oxygen. At least 89% of your blood should be carrying oxygen.
  • You will get the best measurements when your hand is warm, relaxed, and at the level of your heart. Make sure all nail polish is removed. Do not smoke, because your percentage will not be correct. Ask your healthcare provider what your percentage should be if you smoke. If you smoke, it is never too late to quit.

Follow up with your doctor or lung specialist as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2021 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.