Where did the love affair with oxygen begin in EMS? Bryan Bledsoe, DO, FACEP, FAAEM, EMT-P, sets the record straight. (Photo/A.J. Heightman)

As a kid growing up in Fort Worth, Texas I had little interest in ambulances or medicine. I do remember one thing about the ambulances in the late 1960s in that they always had signs on the side that stated “oxygen equipped” in big letters. Before that, the ambulances were emblazoned with the phrase “radio equipped”—but that is a different story.

The EMS love affair with oxygen goes back as far as I can recall. I went to EMT school in 1974 and we actually had a skills station where we were tested on oxygen administration and had to calculate the amount of oxygen available in oxygen cylinders of various sizes.

During 1975 and 1976, I was in paramedic school and we again taught that every patient needed oxygen. At that time, there was perceived benefit and minimal risk of harm. This went on for a decade or two before we began to recognize that too much oxygen can actually be dangerous.

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