Oxygen & Medication for Chronic Lung Disease of Prematurity

At NYU Langone, treatment of chronic lung disease of prematurity often begins in the neonatal intensive care unit and may continue at home until a baby can breathe easily without support. Oxygen therapy is the main treatment for this condition. This ensures that your child receives the oxygen needed for proper growth and development. Oxygen therapy is better tolerated as a baby grows and his or her lungs develop more fully.

The duration and setting of oxygen therapy depends on the severity of a baby’s breathing problems. Antibiotics and other medications may also be a part of your baby’s treatment plan.

Ventilator Support

Some babies with chronic lung disease may need to receive oxygen therapy in the neonatal intensive care unit via a mechanical ventilator, a machine that pumps oxygen into the baby’s lungs through a thin tube inserted through the trachea, or windpipe. Oxygen from a ventilator can also be given through a mask that covers the baby’s nose. Our neonatologists and pediatric pulmonologists regularly monitor oxygen level with pulse oximetry and physical exams while your baby is in the hospital.

Supplemental Oxygen

After your baby can breathe without a mechanical ventilator, oxygen therapy may be continued in the hospital or at home. Some babies need supplemental oxygen all day and night, whereas others need it only at night. Oxygen may be delivered through a nasal cannula, a small, flexible tube that is placed in the nostrils and is attached to an oxygen tank.


Our doctors may prescribe one or more medications to treat the symptoms and complications of chronic lung disease:

  • antibiotics, which may be used to treat pneumonia, an infection often seen with chronic lung disease, or other bacterial infections 
  • corticosteroids, which reduce lung inflammation 
  • diuretics, which flush out excess fluid in the lungs 
  • bronchodilators, which open up the airways 
  • a vaccine against respiratory syncytial virus, which prevents an infection that can lead to pneumonia

These medications can be given through a vein with intravenous (IV) infusion while the baby is in the hospital.

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