Novel and unconventional strategies continue to emerge in response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus (COVID-19). One recent innovative response is high-flow nasal cannula (HFNC) use for adults experiencing the respiratory effects of COVID-19. HFNC provides warmed, humidified oxygen at higher fractions of inspired oxygen (FiO2) levels and flow rates than conventional oxygen therapy, potentially reducing the number of patients requiring intubation and mechanical ventilation. Increased HFNC use stems from an attempt to mitigate the virus’s devastating pulmonary effects, including alveolar inflammation that leads to scarring and respiratory compromise, which persist after the virus has been treated.
However, HFNC is controversial because of limited and inconsistent research and the risk for aerosolization of virus particles. This article discusses the delivery of HFNC, its benefits and risks, and nursing considerations.