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What is it?
- An oxygen tent is a bendable piece of clear plastic held over your child's bed or crib by a frame. The plastic is then tucked under the mattress. It may also be called a croup, mist, or Ohio tent. Oxygen or regular air is blown into the tent. Oxygen is a colorless gas you cannot smell that is a very important part of the air we breathe. If oxygen is blown into the tent, the air around your child is much higher in oxygen than normal. The tent also lets your child move around on his bed without having to wear an oxygen mask.
- Caregivers may decide that your child needs humidified (hew-mih-dih-fide) air or oxygen. Humidified means that moisture has been added to the oxygen or regular air being blown into the tent. This humidity helps prevent the loss of water from your child's body as he breathes. Humidity can also make your child's phlegm (lung mucous and saliva or spit) thinner.
Why does your child need an oxygen tent?
Oxygen tents are not used very often anymore. But, they are still used to treat bad breathing problems, such as croup in children. Croup is an infection of the vocal cords, voice box, windpipe, and bronchi (upper airways of the lungs). Croup causes these tissues to swell and narrow, making it harder for air to enter and leave the lungs. This infection is common in infants and children from 3 months to 3 years of age. Ask you caregiver for the CareNotes™ handout about your child's breathing problem.
If your child is having serious breathing problems, he may need to go into the hospital. An oxygen tent may be used to give your child humidified oxygen. It may be 5 to 6 days before your child feels better.
- Children are often scared to be separated from their parents while they are inside the tent. And, your child will be even more scared if he sees that you are upset.
- You will be able to see your child but cannot hold him. Stay close by your child where he can see you and if possible, tell him that you will not leave.
- If your child cries, caregivers will show you how to reach inside the tent to stroke his head or back. It is important not to take your child out of the tent every time he cries. This will "reward" your child for crying. Soon he will learn that if he cries, he will be able to get out of the tent.
- Bring your child's favorite toy, stuffed animal, or blanket to the hospital. Your child can play with toys inside the tent that are not sharp or dangerous. This will help lessen his fear.
- The machine putting oxygen and humidity into the tent makes noises that may scare your child. Tell your child that the machine will not hurt him. Caregivers may tape a gauze pad over a baby's ears to keep the loud noises from hurting his hearing.
- It is very important to keep the oxygen level in the tent constant (the same over time). Oxygen escapes each time the tent is opened or when there is a place for the oxygen to leak out. You can help lessen this problem by making sure the tent stays tucked under the mattress. Also, use the side zippers when you have to reach your child instead of lifting the tent. Caregivers will test the air in the tent often to see how much oxygen is in it. Tests may also be done on your child's blood to see if the oxygen tent is helping.
- Mist and drops of water can gather on the inside of the tent if humidity is being used. This can make it hard to see your child. Tell caregivers and they can wipe the inside of the tent clear.
- Humidity makes the air inside of the tent cooler than outside the tent. This is good for your child's breathing problem but can make his body temperature go to low. Caregivers will check your child's temperature often and will adjust the temperature of the air when needed. Your child should wear clothes when inside the oxygen tent to keep him from being too cold. Caregivers may also need to change your child's clothes often.
- Oxygen can explode if not used safely.
- Never smoke around an oxygen tent or any other types of oxygen equipment.
- Sparks from electrical equipment can also cause the oxygen to explode. Do not use electrical devices like hair dryers and shavers inside the tent.
- Toys that can cause sparks, such as play toasters or "rev-up" toy cars should not be allowed inside the tent.
- Following are other things you can do to keep your child safe while in an oxygen tent.
- Never walk away from your child's bed or crib without raising the side rails! This is easy to forget because the tent makes it "look" like your child cannot fall off the bed.
- Your child could suffocate (not get enough oxygen) if the plastic tent presses against his mouth and nose. Keeping the tent tucked firmly under the mattress can help lessen this risk. Also, staying with your child will help him stay calm. Then he is less likely to get tangled up in the tent while trying to get out.
- At first, your child may need to be fed while staying inside the tent. This is because sucking and eating use up a lot of oxygen. Caregivers will show you how to either reach inside the tent or lift the tent and lean inside to feed your child. Caregivers will tell you when you can start feeding your child outside the tent. Once your child is allowed to eat outside the tent, he may still need extra oxygen. The oxygen is given through a nasal cannula. One end of the tube is connected to the oxygen. The other end has short, thin tubes that go into his nose.
You have the right to help plan your child's care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your child's breathing problem and how an oxygen tent can help. You can then discuss your child's treatment options with caregivers. Work with them to decide what care will be used to treat your child.