One of the complications of coronavirus infection is pneumonia, where the oxygen level circulating in the blood can drop. This is due to the fact that the new coronavirus affects the tissue lining the lung alveoli, and oxygen does not enter the blood in the right amount.
The level of oxygen saturation (saturation) in the blood is a very important indicator, which is taken into account in COVID-19 diagnosis. Based on the oxygen content in the blood, it is decided whether a person needs artificial ventilation of the lungs (and thus hospitalization) or not.
The New York Times recently published an article by emergency physician Richard Levitan, in which he shares his observations about pneumonia caused by coronavirus. He spent 10 days monitoring a variety of patients with confirmed COVID-19 and came to some rather disturbing conclusions: it turns out that many patients who are asymptomatic carriers of the virus began to have bilateral pneumonia long before they felt any discomfort or breathing problems. As a result, when pneumonia peaked and started to show up, it was too late. Such patients need to be connected to a ventilator (AV) that is catastrophically lacking around the world. But even a ventilator at this stage may not help and the patient dies. It’s all about the oxygen level in the blood. You can also measure it at home, the main thing is to know how to do it and to be prepared to act ahead of time.
As it turns out, COVID pneumonia can be a greater threat than we thought.
In his publication, Levitan says that during these 10 days he met with completely different patients. One of them was a man with a knife wound to the shoulder, who was “enlightened” by X-rays for fear of lung collapse and found COVID pneumonia. Other patients were CT scanned after their fall injuries and accidentally found COVID pneumonia again. The same pattern was observed in elderly patients who had passed out or had diabetes mellitus. And what surprised doctors the most was the absence of complaints about respiratory problems, although with this kind of pneumonia and oxygen levels much lower than normal, they simply could not help but appear.
Oxygen levels in the coronavirus.
COVID-pneumonia – pneumonia caused by the new coronavirus COVID-19
Practice shows that COVID-pneumonia causes a form of oxygen deficiency. In this condition, the blood oxygen level drops below normal values. But the problem is that it can be very difficult to detect this condition. Normal pneumonia causes shortness of breath, discomfort in the chest or pain in breathing. When these symptoms occur, the patient goes to doctors who can quickly diagnose the disease and begin treatment. In the case of COVID pneumonia, there are no such symptoms, and the disease progresses rapidly.
The normal level of oxygen saturation in the blood is considered to be 94% – 100%. The critical condition is recorded at values of 50% – 60%.
Most patients experienced several other symptoms at an early stage: cough, fever, fatigue or upset stomach. There were no breathing problems. And when such problems occurred, they immediately went to the doctors who diagnosed COVID pneumonia, which lasts more than one day. In the case of common pneumonia, patients are intubated in very severe conditions. They may be in shock, in an altered mental state, making wheezing sounds. In acute stages, a person may be unconscious or excruciatingly tense all his muscles for a sigh. However, patients with COVID pneumonia may have a critically low oxygen level in their blood and still be able to talk quietly on the phone. But why does that happen?
During COVID pneumonia a person may not feel the symptoms of the disease and it is very dangerous.
What is the danger of pneumonia in the coronavirus?
I will not go into medical terms, I will try to explain in simple language. COVID pneumonia causes inflammation which causes the alveolus (small bubble structures) in the lungs to break down and the blood oxygen level to drop. At the same time, the lungs keep their elasticity and remove carbon dioxide. Without the accumulation of carbon dioxide, our body does not feel dyspnea. To increase oxygen levels in the blood, a person starts breathing faster and deeper without even realizing it. As a result, this reaction causes even more inflammation and pneumonia is exacerbated to the point where blood oxygen levels begin to fall further. In this way, the patient traumatizes his lungs to breathe more and more heavily. In 20% of cases this is followed by the second stage of the injury, when the fluid in the lungs accumulates more and more, they lose their elasticity, the carbon dioxide level rises and the person starts to suffocate. At this point, COVID pneumonia patients begin to seek medical attention, but the blood oxygen level is approaching a critical point and sometimes only a connection to a TRS can save them. Such cases explain the sudden death of the patient, who does not feel breathing problems until the last moment.
Ilon Mask is already making a TRS from parts of his Tesla Model 3 electric car.
And that’s where we go to the main thing. If a person knew the oxygen level in his blood or could always control it, it would definitely save more than one life. Turns out there’s a device for home use, too. It’s called a pulse oximeter, and it’s able to monitor pulse and blood oxygen levels. It’s very easy to use. The device is put on the tip of your finger, a button is pressed and after a few seconds you see the result on its screen. These devices are often used by physicians to determine their coronavirus at an early stage and take appropriate action.
Of course, when conducting tests at home and getting the results you need to understand that the final conclusion can only give a specialist. Sometimes we may receive values slightly deviated from the norm after a previous illness, chronic illness or due to body features. However, if you have been diagnosed with coronavirus, or have related symptoms such as cough, fever, weakness, etc., it is certainly not superfluous to measure your blood oxygen level.
How Blood Oxygen Measurement Instruments Work
Pulse oximeter is a device for non-invasive (no skin puncture) measurement of blood pulse and oxygen level. The principle of operation is quite simple. First, the hemoglobin in our blood refracts two light beams of different wavelengths depending on its oxygen saturation. And second, the light that passes through our tissues begins to pulsate at every heartbeat. Thus, by passing the light from two wavelengths and fixing the refraction and pulse rate with a special sensor, the pulse oximeter can determine our pulse and the oxygen saturation of our blood. A few seconds is enough for measurements.
In the expanses of App Store and Google Play you can find many apps for iPhone or Android phones that can measure your heart rate and blood oxygen saturation. With heart rate programs, no questions asked, it’s pretty simple: a bright flash lights up your finger and a camera captures your heart rate every time you have a heartbeat. But we don’t advise you to measure your blood oxygen level with these programs. For them, a regular camera is not enough, you need special rays and a sensor that captures them. Using such programs can sow panic, because they show the results actually from the ceiling.
How much are the pulse oximeters…
The device looks like this, although there may be variations
Sadly, their prices have risen considerably since the Coronavirus pandemic began. It cannot be said that they are worth a lot of money, but a few months ago they could be bought 2-3 times cheaper. A quick study of the offers showed that today the price in Russia ranges from 5,000 to 10,000 rubles and they are available. Whether it is worth breaking your head to start buying them is an open question. If you sit at home and have absolutely no symptoms, then you can take your time. If you are worried about something from the above, and risk and visit hospitals at this difficult time of desire no, maybe it makes sense to explore several options for home pulse oximeters.
Can fitness bracelets or a smart watch measure blood oxygen levels
Yes, they can! And that’s great news. There are a lot of bracelets on the market from well-known companies that you can trust. For example, bracelets that support blood oxygen measurement have Huawei, HONOR, Samsung, Xiaomi and many other smaller manufacturers. The cost of such fitness bracelets is calculated from 1 500 rubles and at a price available to everyone.
But the company Apple with its Apple Watch is still slow. It was reported that even the first generation of watches had the necessary sensors for such measurements, but so far Apple has not enabled this feature at the software level. According to the latest data, we will get the long-awaited feature this year together with the release of iOS 14 this autumn.
My colleague from AppleInsider.ru Ivan Kuznetsov even wrote a piece about why he would buy a watch from Samsung and not from Apple. Tip: Blood oxygen levels matter.