What is a pulse oximeter and can it help you detect COVID-19?
Even though more than 100 groups across the globe are working at breakneck speed to develop a vaccine or cure for COVID-19, the number of positive coronavirus cases continues to increase at an unprecedented rate globally and is inching towards the 9 million mark. The contagion is pushing the medical care system and support staff to the brink in most of the badly impacted nations including India, which has become the fourth worst-hit nation from the COVID pandemic.
02/7What is pulse oximeter
As people are arming themselves to fight against the highly contagious disease, a small rectangular device, known as the pulse oximeter is flying off the shelves. This device is clipped on a person’s finger and is used to measure blood oxygen and heart rate. While usually it is used to measure blood oxygen levels in a patient with preexisting respiratory conditions, it is now also used to diagnose the silent depletion of oxygen in the body of asymptomatic patients.
03/7How does pulse oximeter help in diagnosing COVID pneumonia
Due to the asymptomatic nature of the majority of COVID-19 infections, a lot of coronavirus patients may suffer from abnormally low-levels of blood saturation without even realising it (dropping below 92 per cent). While usually, such low-levels of blood oxygen may lead to symptoms like breathlessness, coronavirus patients may get used to the gradual decrease of oxygen levels in the body. Some of the other symptoms a patient battling low-levels of oxygen concentration include bouts of confusion and even euphoria. This is where a pulse oximeter comes handy as it helps in detecting low levels of oxygen saturation in an otherwise asymptomatic coronavirus patient.
04/7What is considered normal blood oxygen level
A person’s oxygen saturation usually varies between 95 to 100 per cent (SpO2) as measured by pulse oximeter and needs immediate attention if it starts dropping below 92 (SpO2).
05/7How does pulse oximeter measure oxygen levels
To take the reading, the pulse oximeter is clipped onto a person’s finger, toe or even an ear lobe as the device measures how much oxygen is being pumped through your body. This small device is able to measureoxygen levels by passing small beams of light through the blood and the sensor of the other side of the tissue picks up the light. Depending on the light absorption in the blood, it gives the reading of oxygen saturation of the blood.
Do you need to buy a pulse oximeter
Since the reading of pulse oximeter is fairly accurate, it may seem smart to keep the device handy in the following situations:
1. If you are suffering from any respiratory medical conditions like asthma, bronchitis etc
2. You have come in contact with a suspected coronavirus patient
3. You belong to the high-risk category for COVID-19 including high blood pressure, diabetes and other chronic lung and heart conditions
4. You are a frontline COVID worker
5. You have developed minor symptoms like unexplained fatigue and mild fever
It is important to note that by simply relying on blood oxygen levels as measured by a pulse oximeter, one may not seek further treatment even after developing telltale symptoms of coronavirus. This is why as helpful as a pulse oximeter is, you should always prioritise speaking to your medical care provider if you develop any symptoms of COVID-19.