“Some COVID-19 patients lack oxygen without becoming breathless. If not detected early, it can lead to death. Proper use of pulse Oximeter and knowing when you should rush to the hospital can save lives.”
Sounds Scary enough? This has become viral in the last 8 months in the wake of COVID-19. We are not trying to scare you,but will try to find a solution here. Finding the Best Home Pulse Oximeter is our goal.
This pandemic is teaching us so many things every day. Like many other things, Pulse Oximeter is something we are now hearing about.
Like it or not, This pandemic is going to stay with us, and we got to be used to living with it. And if we are going to live with it, we should have all we need in our disposal to detect this at the earliest.
Although it’s a popular device for sports people who are into mountain hiking and have to deal with altitude where oxygen level is often very low, but the pandemic now introduced it to us, who never needed it, specially people like me !
So,lets dive into knowing more about this cute little device.
What’s a Pulse Oximeter, and Do I Really Need One at Home?
In simpler terms, a pulse oximeter, also known as pulse ox, is a portable electronic device use in the estimation of the amount of oxygen in your blood. Pulse Oximeter, which is a non-invasive medical device, is attached to the finger, earlobe or toe in order to read the oxygen level in the red blood cells.
The pulse oximeter,once in use, will target the hemoglobin which is a protein molecule that carries oxygen in the blood. The work of the hemoglobin is to absorb series amount of wavelengths of light to determine the level of oxygen that it is carrying through the blood. It is a painless measurement of how oxygen is sent to the farthest parts of your body such as the legs and the hands
Now,Having a device that tests the oxygen level in your blood cannot be overemphasized as cases of serious health conditions are ravaging the world. How much oxygen (O²) that is in your red blood cells is crucial to a healthy body system as oxygen is what we breathe in to live every day and a less flow of oxygen in the blood can be an issue to your health.
There are contrary views by many doctors and health care professionals on whether the use of pulse oximeter is recommended to all households; they, however, agree that the use of pulse oximeter is a good idea for self-assessment of the oxygen levels in the blood.
When you fall ill, checking your oxygen levels could let you know when to seek intensive medical treatment before it worsens which can affect your breathing rate. One of the challenges of using a pulse oximeter, however, is that not all pulse oximeters can be trusted to give an accurate estimate of the oxygen levels in the blood.
This is the concern of medical doctors recommending them on a regular purchase by homes. This does not mean these pulse oximeters are not useful at homes. Thus, when buying this device, consult a medical professional or buy a brand new one from a trusted supplier as a pulse ox could be a lifesaver in certain situations.
Medical Conditions That Use Pulse Oximeter Monitoring
The sole function of a pulse oximeter is to check if the oxygen in the blood is enough. Information gotten from such checks can be used in so many situations, such as :
- To analyze how the lungs are working in patients that took lung medicines.
- To test an individual that has moments where the breathing stops during sleep. This is a condition known as sleep apnea.
- When a surgery is taking place or after it and in conditions that use sedation.
- To examine an individual’s capacity to handle increased activity situations.
- Cases where it is use to test if there is need for a ventilator is necessary to help with breathing, as well as where it’s use to test its efficacy.
Pulse Oximeter is also needed to know the health status of a person with conditions that affects the oxygen levels in the red blood cells, like:
- Lung cancer
- Heart attack
- Heart failure + COVID 19 and heart failure
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
There are also other situations where your medical healthcare provider will have the need for you to use a pulse oximeter. If you have been in the hospital in the last 5 years, then you must have done a pulse oximetry.
How does a Pulse Oximeter work?
How a pulse oximeter is use is by placing your finger slowly inside the device and the electronic device can show a result within moments that reveals your blood oxygen level and heart rate. In most cases, adults and kids that are healthy will have a result hovering between the range of 94 to 98 percent. If you have any challenging health condition, you are likely to have a lower normal reading.
Note: Having your doctor use Pulse Oximeter to check the oxygen level in your body is advised in situations where you can’t read meaning into the numbers.
Pulse Ox can as well reveal your heart rate. For most people, the heart is expected to have about 60 to 100 beats per minute. Exceptions are for athletes that trains hard as they may have a lower pulse.Avoid using pulse oximeter on fingers that have thick nail polish and cold hands as that may affect the readings which can less accurate outcome.
Which Finger is best for using a pulse oximeter?
According to doctors working at Lenox Hill Hospital, New York “using the index fingers gives the best results when testing the oxygen level with a pulse oximeter “, but the middle finger, surprisingly, showed the best results when a study of 35 volunteers was done.
This means that if you are a left-handed person, place your left middle finger in the device for a better result while right-handed individuals can use their right middle finger for the test. It is worthy to note that using the index finger will still provide a good feedback as long as you feel comfortable making use of that.
In cases where you feel that the electronic device is giving a less accurate result (which is likely to occur in some cases) test the device on a healthy individual to crosscheck if it is an error and have a meeting with the doctor on the matter.
What happens if my oxygen level falls?
The normal oxygen level in the blood,as stated earlier, will always vary between 75 and 100 millimetres of mercury (mm Hg).
Once the blood oxygen level goes below 60 millimetres of mercury, it is considered to be low and such individual may require oxygen supplementation, depending on what the doctor suggests and how the person responds to the situation.
What happens If your oxygen level falls when compared to the medically accepted oxygen level for a healthy individual can be a sign of a condition which is known as Hypoxia. This condition occurs when the body has issues with passing oxygen to all of its organs, tissues and cells and in particular to the hands and legs. Symptoms such as difficulty in breathing and rapid heart beat are prevalent with an individual experiencing Hypoxia.
This medical condition can result in the other related symptoms such as:
- Serious headache
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Lack of coordination at performing a task
- Severe high blood pressure
- Visual disorders
- Sense of euphoria
- Fast heart beat
- Changes in skin color, lips and fingernails
Causes of Hypoxia
There are series of circumstances and body conditions that can alter with an individual body’s capacity to circulate standard level of oxygen to the blood. The most common causes of low oxygen levels in the blood are:
- Areas of high altitudes, where the presence of oxygen in the air is much lower.
- Serious pain medications and other issues that affect the breathing rate.
- Lungs condition such as bronchitis can seriously affect the flow of oxygen in the blood.
There are other circumstances that can result in a person experiencing hypoxia. This raises the appeal of every household buying a pulse oximeter to assist in monitoring the oxygen levels in the blood as more than 87 percent of your blood should be carrying oxygen.
What is the Treatment for Low Oxygen Level ( Hypoxia)?
Low oxygen level in the red blood cells is mainly as a result of a serious condition that alters how your body system circulates oxygen. It’s key that your health care provider sets up a plan that handles the health challenge in line with treating the symptoms of hypoxia.
Any treatment for low level of oxygen in the blood focuses on raising the levels of oxygen in the patient’s blood. There are different medications that doctors and other health professionals can use in treating underlying disorders that cause hypoxia. Such medications are often administered using an inhaler that helps the individual to breathe the drugs into the lungs.
In critical conditions, the doctor may administer an oxygen therapy to the person suffering from low oxygen level in the blood. Oxygen therapy is done through a device known as the cannula (tube) which is clipped to the outer part of the nose, or in some serious cases, through a breathing mask. How long this treatment will take and the place solely depends on what the individual requires to get back to normal health condition.
While milder cases of hypoxia can be treated at home with a movable machine, severe cases are always sent to the hospital for proper monitoring and check ups.
Do Covid-19 patients need to have a pulse oximeter?
Studies so far shown that most corona virus patients don’t show severe breathing difficulties at the early stages of contracting the Covid-19 virus till it worsens to a respiratory failure. The challenge of these Covid-19 carriers not having a clue that their lives are in serious danger heightens the need for pulse Oximeter for homes and hospitals carrying tests for the corona virus sickness.
According to Richard Levitan, MD, an emergency physician in Littleton, New Hampshire, and the president of Airway Cam Technologies “The level of oxygen that these people are reaching can be so low that its amazing to me not only that they’re alive, but that they’re often not in distress. They may be awake, alert and even on their cell phones.“
Dr. Richard refers to this difficult to detect type of low oxygen levels in the blood (or hypoxia) as a silent killer. After looking after patients during a 10-day volunteering encounter at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, he shared his view about this aspect of the corona virus in a column on The New York Times. He says that in the midst of the corona virus outbreak, which is basically a respiratory disease, it is crucial to have a pulse oximeter at homes and offices selling essential products – just as you rely on the results of a thermometer to test for fevers.
If you notice development of any corona virus symptoms such as weakness, fever or muscle pains, then using the “pulse ox” to check the oxygen levels in the blood is needed.
Without a pulse oximetry test, a corona virus patient might never know he/she is dying, as the symptoms won’t be prevalent at the early stage, despite critical low oxygen levels. By the moment a visit to the hospital is done with symptoms such as shortness of breath, the oxygen in the blood would have gone very low, and that can lead to a very advanced health condition known as corona virus pneumonia that has affected the lungs so much.
Are home devices accurate?
The main concern about the use of pulse oximeter at home is the case of false reading. Getting an effective reading from a pulse oximeter depends on fitting it the right way, and slight changes in the positioning while sleeping or momentarily holding your breathe during usage can result in a less accurate outcome. It is pertinent for doctors to help their patients understand how the pulse oximeter works. This is necessary for people with health anxiety to avoid causing unnecessary worry when they use the non-invasive device.
Households buying pulse oximeters should consult a doctor on the safety use of the device and keeping a record of the results over time is important for medical use. Environmental changes can alter the readings of a pulse oximeter and, in few cases, signal a health problem that requires doctor’s consultation.
Conversely,” pulse ox” may give false sense of assurance, since the electronic device do not provide feedback for all possible oxygen related issues, and cannot act as a substitute for other types of medical diagnosis. Which reinforces the need to discuss with a doctor before getting one.
What to do if you notice inaccurate oximeter reading?
If you have the feeling that your pulse oximeter is giving less accurate results, trying the following steps will help. They are:
- Ensure you place your finger there for as long as 15 seconds till the pulse oximeter stops reading.
- Be sure that there is no interference such as dirty fingers and dark nail polish.
- Keep your finger warm for accurate result
- Apply a Glyceryl Trinitrate (GTN) cream to help open up the blood vessels.
- Try sitting in an upright position and not shaking.
- Try a different finger ( e.g., the index finger if you’ve used the middle finger).
- Use a different pulse oximeter to crosscheck the reading.
- If self assessment fails, try to consult your doctor on a proper diagnosis.
Which one should I buy?
Deciding on which pulse oximeter to buy may require discussing with your physician, but study shown that most doctors in the US use the finger pulse oximeters for checking oxygen levels in the blood for corona virus patients during the period of the pandemic. A finger pulse oximeter is built with speed and convenience in mind. It is also easy to use as all you have to do is slide your middle finger into the device’s opening until it reaches the reading chip.
Your pulse oximeter will automatically turn on, complete a short self-assessment and start to measure your oxygen level and the heart beat. Within seconds, you get the result while you remove your finger and allow the electronic device to shutoff within a few moments.
Some of the pulse oximeters that you should consider getting depending on your budget are:
The best pulse oximeter to purchase is subject to your health care provider advise and the one that work for you. Always consult your doctor when making the decision to get one. Remember, it is a great device to help in the face of challenges posed by the corona virus pandemic.
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