Until the pandemic arrived, unless you worked in healthcare, you’d probably never heard of a pulse oximeter. But there is a compelling case for owning one. Is is a simple, non-invasive method of measuring the oxygen levels in your blood.
How does it work?
By very gently pinching the fleshy part of your fingertip and painlessly shining a light into it, the device detects your pulse rate and the percentage of your red blood cells carrying oxygen, or blood oxygenation.
If you have a cough, fatigue or a fever you can monitor your oxygen level. It’s particularly useful for those who have – or are suspected to have – Covid-19.
Usually, dangerously low blood oxygen levels are associated with a feeling of breathlessness and an increased rate of breathing, to the point where it’s hard to speak in full sentences. With coronavirus, however, this is not necessarily the case. Covid-19 patients may be breathing fairly comfortably – even talking on their mobile phone! – with critically low oxygen saturations. For these people, the device can literally be a lifesaver.
It’s worth remembering that any medical device can give erroneous results. Nail varnish, cold fingers, and poor circulation may interfere with the device’s accuracy. If you are wearing nail polish – insert the finger so that the sides of the finger are in contact with the oximeter.
Three times a day
The monitor should be used 3 times a day. For an oximeter to be an effective tool, you’ll first need to know your baseline oxygen level. Without knowing what’s typical for you, it’s hard to know whether your numbers are concerning.
While 95% to 100% is normal for most healthy people, someone with chronic lung disease may be at 92% “on a good day”.
In general, a healthy person with COVID-19 monitoring his or her clinical status at home will want to ensure that the oxygen reading stays consistently at or above 90 to 92%. If the number drops below this threshold, it is advisable to call your doctor, especially if you are exhibiting other respiratory symptoms.
Regardless of what your pulse oximeter shows you should still call your doctor if you have severe shortness of breath, chest pain, unrelenting cough or high fever.
A doctor explains:-
Note: If you get a oximeter while you are well it would be good to measure your oxygen level and keep a note of it – so that you know what your normal is.
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