How is blood oxygen saturation related to COVID-19?

Updated: Feb 3



Most of the patients suffering from COVID-19 report lower oxygen levels in the bloodstream, though they may feel good. Low levels of oxygen may be an early sign which warns that medical care may be required. However, the use of the pulse oximeter to monitor the oxygen saturation may be useful in patients infected with COVID-19. One must be tested if there are signs and symptoms of COVID-19 or if some close has been diagnosed with it.

If a person is suffering from a COVID-19 infection, the use of a pulse oximeter may assist them in keeping an eye over their general physical health and in finding out if they require medical healthcare services. Although, using a pulse oximeter may be helping a person to feel as they have some control over the status of their health, however, it is not reflective of the entire health status. Oxygen levels can be measured by using a pulse oximeter but it is not the single means for knowing the extent of sickness one has. It has been seen that subjects who might be feeling sickness can have extremely good levels of oxygen while those who do not show any symptoms, may have poor levels of oxygen.

Results of pulse oximeter might not be accurately measured in people who have a dark complexion. As a result, their levels of oxygen may be sometimes reported higher compared to their actual levels. Thus, individuals who self-check their levels of oxygen must bear this in their minds while interpreting the results.



What happens to oxygen saturation in COVID infection?


Under normal conditions, our lungs function to perform the exchange of gases, thus, supplying oxygen to every cell of the body as one breathes in. A person's healthy lungs help in maintaining oxygenation of blood at levels between 95 to 100%. If levels of oxygen fall under 92 %, it becomes a cause of concern due to which a physician/doctor might intervene by providing the supplemental supply of oxygen.

Earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, clinicians had started to first sound warning alarms regarding the presence of silent hypoxia. At that time, pulse oximeters were bought by most of the people who worried that either they or their members of the family may be able to recover from a mild form of COVID-19 infections in their homes as they could regularly monitor saturation levels of blood oxygen.

How a COVID-19 infection affects one's lung's capability for regulating the direction of blood is a subject of interest. In normal situations, if parts of the lungs are not collecting adequate oxygen as a result of damage due to COVID-19 infection, blood vessels undergo constriction in these sites. Preliminary data from clinical observations suggested that the lungs of COVID-19 patients lose the ability of blood flow to the damaged lung tissues and further lower the oxygen saturation in the blood.



How to monitor the oxygen levels in blood?

blood oxygen levels

Pulse oximetry is a test that is used for measuring oxygen level or saturation of the blood. It is a simple and painless method that measures how oxygen is transported to various parts of the body which are away from the heart, for example, arms and legs.

A clip-like device or probe is attached to a particular body part, for example, a finger or an ear-lobe. This probe makes use of a light source for the measurement of levels of oxygen in the blood. The information gathered will help a healthcare provider to decide if an individual requires a supplemental source of oxygen.

Pulse oximetry can be used for checking if there is a sufficient level of oxygen in the blood. This observation may be required in various types of clinical situations such as during and after surgical procedures that make use of sedation, to analyze the functioning of medicines used for treating conditions affecting the lungs, to evaluate an individual’s ability for handling an increase in the level of activity, to analyze if there is a requirement of a ventilator in helping with respiration or to check how it is helping, to analyze if an individual suffers from breathing obstruction during their sleep, known as sleep apnea.



What are the common conditions that require regular monitoring of oxygen saturation?


Normal oxygen levels in the blood vary from 75 to 100 millimeters of mercury. Oxygen levels under 60 mm of Hg are considered less and may require supplementation of oxygen which may depend on the doctor's judgment and a particular case.

Pulse oximetry is additionally used for checking the health of an individual with a condition that can affect levels of oxygen in the blood, for example, cardiac attack or failure, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, anemia, carcinoma of lungs, asthma, pneumonia, obstruction of an artery in the lung due to clogging caused by a blood clot, pulmonary fibrosis and/or scarring and damage to lungs, presence of air or gas in the chest cavity that can collapse the lungs, presence of excessive fluid within lungs, condition of sleep apnea wherein breathing is disturbed while sleeping and few medications that include narcotic agents and pain-killers.



How to restore normal oxygen saturation in COVID patients?


restore normal oxygen levels

If a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, using a pulse oximeter may be helping in keeping a watch on his or her health and also, help in knowing if any emergency medical health care is required. If a person’s levels of oxygen are low, oxygen therapy is given. Levels of blood gases are re-checked over time to keep a check on oxygen supply. The oxygen is delivered by small see-through tubes known as nasal cannulae or a face mask covering the nose and mouth. This will help to work out how much oxygen is required to improve the levels of oxygen in your blood.


Many patients treated with oxygen whilst in hospital are discharged and they do not require any oxygen at home. However, few of them may require oxygen support as well in their home. The knowledge regarding the rate of flow of oxygen, oxygen supply based on the total numbers of hours per day, and equipment required for setting up is necessary. One must use oxygen for the whole day or may only require oxygen during various activities, for example, bathing, getting dressed, or during movements.

When a full-day oxygen requirement is there, an oxygen concentrator is most suitable. This machine acts by filtering air within the room and concentrating oxygen within for breathing purposes. Any home-based oxygen provider can provide us with information concerning operating these and various requirements for maintaining it like washing filters, when necessary.

Almost every person who has an oxygen concentrator must essentially possess a large-sized oxygen cylinder as a backup, in case the oxygen concentrator machine does not work, for example, whenever there is a failure of electrical supply.

A person may require the supply of oxygen when one is moving around or performing any activity. This type of oxygen mechanism is known as ‘ambulatory oxygen’ which is sold in small-sized portable cylinders or as small, re-chargeable machines.


Centric Healthcare’s Nurses give more knowledge about Covid safety and precautions

Reach out to Centric Healthcare’s team if you or any of your family members need help. The agency ensures to give high-quality service and care for you or your loved one. Feel free to contact if you have any questions.





References
  1. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/pulse-oximetry

  2. https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/safety-communications/pulse-oximeter-accuracy-and-limitations-fda-safety-communication

  3. https://www.yourcovidrecovery.nhs.uk/managing-the-effects/effects-on-your-body/managing-your-oxygen/


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