COVID-19 Safety COVID-19 Updates Patient Awareness

Gas Cylinder Colour Codes: A Necessary Observation During COVID-19

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The COVID-19 pandemic has taken on momentum in India, especially during the second wave in March 2021. It is named after coronavirus and caused particularly by the strain, namely Severe Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which was first identified in Wuhan, China. The original strain has now undergone many mutations raising concerns over the spread and infectivity of the pandemic.

Many flu-like symptoms are observed in patients infected with the virus. One of the common offsets of the infection is the drop in blood oxygen saturation levels, leading to difficulty in breathing amongst many individuals. The national COVID-19 task force members have brought forward data suggesting that over 54.5 % of the hospital admissions during the second wave were due to decreased oxygen saturation levels in the patient. In this struggle to get oxygen and to improve healing, various states including Delhi and Punjab, have begun importing oxygen cylinders from neighbouring countries such as China.

Oxygen Quality Check

The chaos continues to increase in developing countries such as India, where the poor management of oxygen supplies has not only seen the severe shortage of oxygen but reduced levels of oxygen provided. This has led to new diseases that worsen the existing health conditions, thereby placing immense pressure on the healthcare sector to cater to all the needs and requirements of the people. 

Due to the compromise in the oxygen quality, fungal diseases such as mucormycosis have increased rapidly and have now been declared an epidemic in various states. Another indicator of pure and impure oxygen that is now missed and under-estimated is the colour code on the gas cylinder that provides an instant visual assessment of the cylinder’s contents. Giving a blind eye to these specifications of the oxygen cylinder colour code has added to the existing problems being faced by the people suffering from COVID-19.

Oxygen Cylinder colour Code

The medical and pharmaceutical industry closely works with a variety of pure and isolated gases for development and storage. For example, carbon dioxide is used for growing specific cultures in the research and development department of the pharmaceutical industry. Likewise, various gases are isolated and used widely in different areas. For easy identification, safety purposes and to prevent mix-up in handling, the gas cylinders have been colour-coded. 

The colour codes are varied for the body and shoulder of the cylinder. For example, the nitrogen cylinder comes in a grey body and black shoulder-coloured cylinder. Hydrogen is contained in a complete red-coloured cylinder and carbon dioxide is contained in a black body and silver shoulder-coloured cylinder. The oxygen cylinder colour code in India is a black body and white shoulder-coloured cylinder. 

It is essential during this pandemic to identify the cylinder by the colour code and visually attest to the gas inside the cylinder before administering it to the patient. The basic colour codes that can be kept in mind are:

  1. Toxic or corrosive gas – Yellow colour
  2. Flammable gas – Red colour
  3. Oxidizing gas – Light Blue colour
  4. Inert gas – Bright Green colour

Hazards of mixing up cylinders

In the distress of lack of oxygen cylinder availability, oxygen is stored in gas cylinders and coded for other gases. Inhalation of oxygen alongside remnants of other corrosive or inflammable gases can severely medically affect the patients inhaling the gas. Another safety precaution while handling the gas cylinder is preventing the lubrication of the valves of the gas cylinders with grease or oil. All manufacturers, suppliers and hospitals need to ensure that the right colour-coded and medically suited oxygen must be administered to the patients needing oxygen.

Let’s just follow this

The pandemic has brought to light the crippled healthcare sector of various countries. This is related not only in terms of infrastructure but also to meet the patients simple supply-demand needs. One such instance is the need for oxygen cylinders for patients whose blood oxygen saturation levels have dropped below ninety. To provide the right isolated gas (oxygen in this instance), a national colour-coding scheme is mechanized to smoothen the visual identification of the gas being contained and transported.

Due to the severe shortage of oxygen in various states, the colour-coding seems ignored and oxygen is being filled in cylinders meant for other corrosive and toxic gases, thereby creating a lot of complications for the patients. Oxygen therapy at home can be practised by using oxygen concentrators, but beyond a specific level, even oxygen concentrators are of no help and hospital administration is required. Nowadays, we even see oxygen for home use due to the lack of hospital beds. Oftentimes the oxygen cylinder colour code is ignored.


It is essential to educate ourselves and be mindful of the handling, sourcing and administration of the oxygen in the hospitals to prevent undue complications and fatalities by observing simple things like the colour code of the gas cylinder. It is to be noted that the oxygen cylinders are odourless and generally non-toxic at atmospheric pressure. They will not burn but support and accelerate combustion.

Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.

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