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Excerpt from the
Handbook on the Late Effects of Poliomyelitis for Physicians and Survivors©


Oxygen therapy should never be administered casually in the presence of elevated carbon dioxide (PaCO2) levels in the arterial blood, known as hypercapnia. Oxygen, even with as little as 2 L (liters) per minute, may cause a sudden and rapid rise in PaCO2. This may blunt respiratory drive and produce profound apnea with severe sleepiness, especially when oxygen is administered at night (Gay & Edmonds, 1995). It is recommended that polio survivors with hypercapnia confer with a sleep and/or pulmonary specialist prior to using oxygen alone for sleep. The more appropriate treatment may be some type of night-time assisted ventilation (Hsu & Staats, 1998) (see Underventilation and Ventilators).

Polio survivors, as with the general population, may have other conditions which are typically treated with oxygen. For example, oxygen therapy may be needed to temporarily supplement normal air levels when there is danger of tissue death, such as during an acute heart attack. Oxygen therapy may also be needed when the lungs are impaired, for example, from pneumonia or from emphysema. The decision to use, or not use, oxygen must be based on a thorough evaluation and understanding of the polio survivor's breathing problems (Hsu & Staats, 1998) (see Underventilation).



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