How Consumer-Grade Oximeters Can Help Save Lives at Home

Silent hypoxia is a condition where the body drops in oxygen levels without the person realizing it. The low oxygen levels can cause irreparable damage to organs if not caught early enough ( Colarossi, J. (November 19, 2020). “Three Reasons Why COVID-19 Can Cause Silent Hypoxia”. Retrieved from Science Daily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/11/201119153946.htm) .  Somehow Covid is infecting the lungs and causing the oxygen levels to drop without causing shortness of breath or coughing. That’s what makes it “silent” hypoxia and that’s why it’s so dangerous. 

One way of knowing where your oxygen levels are when you have Covid is by using a simple “oximeter”. “Pulse oximetry (pulse ox) is an expedient and accurate tool to measure noninvasively the oxygenation status of any patient in whom this might be a clinical concern (Retrieved from J Am Coll Emerg Physicians Open. 2020 Dec; 1(6): 1450–1458. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7771801/#__ffn_sectitle

By putting an oximeter on your finger, and keeping still, it will tell you the percentage of oxygen you have in your blood. Cold fingers of shaky hands can affect the result, so you can take the oxygen level a few times if you find it’s abnormally low.

In a study comparing consumer-grade portable oximeters to hospital grade ones, they were found to be accurate enough to be clinically useful when compared to a hospital bedside monitor pulse oximeter. Consumer‐grade portable pulse oximeters may be useful if overwhelming numbers of patients require oxygen saturation monitoring, such as during the COVID‐19 pandemic. (Retrieved from J Am Coll Emerg Physicians Open. 2020 Dec; 1(6): 1450–1458. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7771801/#__ffn_sectitle)

We asked Dr Ruchi Murthy, infectious disease specialist who is based in Ottawa, why oximeters might be helpful during this time. This was her response, “As Omicron surges and access to health care becomes increasingly challenging, at home pulse oximeters can be a helpful tool to help screen for any concerning drop in oxygen levels—especially for those who are immunocompromised or have underlying risk factors for severe respiratory infections.”

With Covid, many women find themselves caring for others and tend to neglect how they feel. During Omicron, where patients are told to “remain home” it may be useful to have a consumer-grade oximeter on hand to measure personal O2 levels. They generally sell for $35/each and need two triple-A batteries. 

(Research is taken from Scientific Journals. Please consult your family physician for any medical advice regarding this subject. This is only meant as ‘information’)

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