People who have mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 are usually home quarantined and are given symptomatic treatment. Hence, in order to ensure the correct path of treatment for those currently under home isolation, the experts underlined the importance of keeping an eye on the oxygen levels of the patients who are seeking treatment at home.
Blood oxygen level is the amount of oxygen circulating in the blood. Most of the oxygen is carried by red blood cells, which collect oxygen from the lungs and deliver it to all parts of the body. The body closely monitors blood oxygen levels to keep them within a specific range, so that there is enough oxygen for the needs of every cell in the body.
A person’s blood oxygen level is an indicator of how well the body distributes oxygen from the lungs to the cells, and it can be important for people’s health.
Low blood oxygen levels can result in abnormal circulation and cause the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid breathing
- Chest pain
- High blood pressure
- Lack of coordination
- Visual disorders
The new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 enters the body through the respiratory system, causing direct injury to a person’s lungs via inflammation and pneumonia — both of which can negatively impact how well oxygen is transferred into the bloodstream. This oxygen impairment can occur at multiple stages of COVID-19, and not simply for critically ill patients placed on ventilators.
Happy hypoxia’ or ‘silent hypoxia’ is a condition when a COVID-19 patient has abnormally low levels of blood oxygen without feeling acute distress or discomfort. In this case, even though the oxygen saturation drops to dangerously low levels, the patient does not feel breathless or any other obvious symptoms of respiratory problems. This silent depletion of oxygen levels in the body of asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic patients may ultimately lead to cardiac arrest.
To keep an eye on the oxygen saturation of home quarantined coronavirus patients, it is advisable to use a pulse oximeter, a small device that can be clipped onto a person’s finger, toe, or ear to measure the percentage of oxygen in the blood. If you are using a pulse oximeter to measure your oxygen saturation, any reading below 95 SpO2 is considered low and abnormal.
It is crucial to seek the advice of your healthcare provider if your reading drops below 93 SpO2, even if you don’t feel any major distress in breathing. It is also important to learn the correct way of measuring your oxygen saturation with the help of a pulse oximeter so that you do not rely on incorrect measurements.
However, pulse oximeters can have falsely low readings if a person has circulatory issues with poor blood flow to the extremities, such as very cold hands, intrinsic vascular disease, or Raynaud’s phenomenon. In addition, fake nails or certain darkly colored nail polish, such as black or blue, can distort the readings.
If a person has a mild case of COVID-19 and is self-treating at home, an oximeter can be a helpful tool for checking oxygen levels so that low oxygen levels can be caught early. In general, the people who are theoretically more at risk for oxygen issues are those with pre-existing lung disease, heart disease and/or obesity, as well as active smokers.
In addition, since “happy hypoxia” can be present in people who might otherwise be regarded as asymptomatic, a pulse oximeter can help ensure that this clinically silent early warning sign is not missed.
If you have tested positive for COVID-19 and are concerned about any developing symptoms, check immediately with your health care provider. From a lung health standpoint, aside from the objective pulse oximeter measurements, if they’re having any laboured breathing, severe chest pain, uncontrollable coughing or dusky lips or fingers, it’s time to go to the ER.