The Coronavirus pandemic has spiked interest in fingertip pulse oximeters. These portable medical devices let you check your arterial hemoglobin oxygen saturation (SpO₂) on the spot.
Why do people use a fingertip pulse oximeter at home to check for coronavirus?
After all, didn’t medical professionals and health care organizations such as the American Thoracic Association and the American Lung Association recommend healthy patients not to purchase their own pulse oximeter?
That’s right, they advised against it.
But distrust in governments and health care associations is rising. The fact that both the WHO, many Western governments, as well as other institutions blatantly lied about the benefits of the general public wearing face masks seems to be contributing to this wariness. The lack of a resolute response by authorities in terms of education as well as preparation has been borderline criminally negligent.
Could it be that medical associations advice discourage the home use of pulse oximeters for Coronavirus for the same reason they did with face masks? In other words, they need all the available devices for professional purposes?
Let’s take a close look at the reason why these medical associations do not recommend the general public to buy a pulse oximeter a.k.a. SP02 meter.
As you may have found out, ordering online isn’t what it used to be. Many products have delivery times of several weeks if not more. Other items are currently unavailable. The good news, they can still be ordered online and in drugstores.
Pulse oximeters are commonly prescribed to patients with chronic lung disease (i.e. pulmonary hypertension or emphysema) who use a tank or a machine to receive supplemental oxygen at home.
For this therapy to work these patients are required to regularly monitor their oxygen levels, so that so they can adjust the flow rate of their supplemental oxygen if need be.
According to Jamie Garfield, a volunteer medical spokesperson at the American Lung Association:
“There is no good role for a pulse oximeter for an otherwise healthy person who doesn’t have access to supplemental oxygen”.
However, if you think about it this doesn’t make sense at all..
Even though someone who suspects to be infected with the Sars-Cov2 virus probably won’t have supplemental a oxygen tank at home, they can still benefit from a pulse oximeter.
Here’s why and how..
Picture this. You have been out in the public space and people were coughing around you. You feel a bit insecure. Did you get infected? You’d like to know what’s up right?
Or you start to feel a bit under the weather so during this pandemic you’re likely to worry about having contracted the Corona virus. It’s only normal.
You’re not the only one.
Many citizens report experiences like:
“I have had a headache and chills with dizzines for three days now. No shortness of breath, fever or coughing. Did have night sweats though. Am I okay?”
“Got a severe headache as well. I’m having night sweats too, never had them before”
Many people report feeling chest pressure. How do you know if this is simply caused by stress or an actual SARSCoV2 infection?
You’ll start to worry. “What qualifies as shortness of breath? Do I still taste and smell as well as I did before?” More doubt creeps in.
After all, many Covid-19 patients experience their blood-oxygen saturation levels dropping to lower than normal.
The benefits of having a pulse oximeter at hand during the Corona virus pandemic
In all of these cases and many others it can be a peace of mind to have both a thermometer as well as a pulse oximeter at hand.
If your temperature and oxygen saturation level are okay ( an SpO2 of 95% and higher is considered normal), you know you aren’t dying of pneumonia and don’t have needlessly worry or to go to the hospital. After all, home treatment might be better than being at an overwhelmed ER of the hospital.
Another benefit, by being able to monitor their own oxygen saturation people are reducing stress on hospitals. Less calls and visits means the doctors and nurses in the already overwhelmed hospitals can focus on their patients.
If your oxygen saturation level is less than 95% you know something is wrong. You can get help and will benefit from early treatment which has shown time and again is a major contributor to avoiding permanent organ damage and recovery in general.
“You could scare yourself and think, ‘Oh my God, my lungs don’t feel right,’ but you could use this pulse oximeter and see, ‘OK, well actually, you’re fine, you’re within the range.’”
A recent study shows that all of the first 12 hospitalized Covid-19 patients in the USA had an oxygen saturation of less than 94% “on room air at some point during their illness”.
A few critical notes
pros and cons
Pulse oximetry has established its position as the most convenient non-invasive method of monitoring arterial saturation continuously.
It should, however, be noted that using fingertip pulse oximeter isn’t a guarantee you’re healthy. This because not in all Coronavirus patients the blood oxygen levels reduced dangerous low levels.
Another reason these devices might give a false sense of security is that SpO2 rates can stay normal for a long period of time only to drop suddenly. (SpO2 stands for peripheral capillary oxygen saturation).
A SpO2 meter that monitors your blood oxygen levels continuously
One way to combat this (having just measured your SpO2 rates to learn they’re fine only to have them drop right after) is to use a wearable oxygen monitor. These are worn like a ring on your finger. The soft ring sensor allows for continuous monitoring.
The ViATOM WearO2 device, for instance, measures heart rate, motion, and blood oxygen level. This smart device features a vibration alarm that stirs your finger so you’ll know immediately if your blood oxygen level is dropping.
Benefits of owning a pulse oximeter during the Coronavirus pandemic
More reasons to purchase one now they’re still available
Doctors around the world are reported to have been prescribing these devices to people so they can see if their lungs are getting sufficient oxygen while they’re in quarantine.
According to medical science, oxygen saturation is the fifth vital sign. In other words, when arriving in a hospital, patients are immediately checked for their; temperature, pulse, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and oxygen saturation. Shorted as TPBRP.
Your SP02 levels should ideally be above 97%. Older people with for instance diabetes may have levels that are a bit lower.
An alternative theory
Recent findings indicate that Covid-19 causes prolonged and progressive hypoxia which basically means it starves your body of oxygen. In other words, it might attack the respiratory system in a different way than previously thought. We have to stress that this is a theory and not confirmed by any medical studies. Still, it’s worth considering.
It’s thought that the virus binds to the heme groups in hemoglobin in one’s red blood cells. This leads to a drop of SpO2. It is theorized that this is what eventually leads to organ failure instead of the generally accepted viral pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
The lung damage we’ve all seen on CT scan photos is thought to be caused by the release of oxidative iron from the hemes causing the always-bilateral ground glass opacity in the lungs.
If this is true self-monitoring blood oxygen levels might be more important than we’re led to believe.
Where to buy a pulse oximeter?
It’s true that they are starting to sell out because of the covid-2 pandemic. Already since January 2020 Google search phrase: “pulse oximeter coronavirus” spiked meaning many people were ahead of the curve.
As a result, many models are currently sold out in stores such as Wallgreens, Wallmart and online on Amazon.
Concluding: should you purchase a SP02 meter for home use?
Famous Youtubers such as Dr. John Campbell and Adam Martenson of Peak Prosperity have talked about the use of these devices in relation to Covid-19. In my own words I’d say that they offer not by any means a foolproof method of diagnosing yourself. They do help people with getting a bit more insight in their current wellbeing, just like thermometers do.
Dr. John Campbell on pulse oximetry
The nurse who’s YouTube videos went viral on the Covid-19 pandemic explains how to use a pulse oximeter.
Pro-tip: if you don’t already do so, follow Dr. John’s Youtube channel to stay updated on the pandemic. The nurse teacher turned YouTube sensation on Covid-19 advice has offered much more relevant tips such as why you shouldn’t use Ibuprofen, Diclofenac, Naproxen and other NSAIDs to reduce a fever when you suspect being infected by SARSCoV2.
Another video by the famous pandemic YouTube doctor on using oximeters and how they work.
What exactly is a pulse oximeter?
and how does it work?
It’s a small, affordable medical device that lets you check the oxygen levels in your blood. They generally attach to your toe or finger and range in price from $20 to $50.
After a finger is inserted the device shines a pulsating light that flickers on and off alternating red and infrared light. The light goes through your finger reaching a detector on the other side. This way it detects your SpO2 levels.
These gadgets are commonly used by people with respiratory illnesses as well as athletes and pilots.
Tip: when using a pulse oximeter to see if you’re possibly infected with the Coronavirus make sure your hands are warm. In cold hands vasoconstriction occurs. Meaning if your extremities are cold, the device might show a false low. Instead of fingers you can also use toes, ears, and your nose to monitor your SpO2 rate.
Popular dietary supplements in relation to Covid-19
Again, this is not medical advice nor do I claim these supplements are guaranteed to prevent catching the Coronavirus or even reducing its symptoms. On the other hand, boosting your immune system is generally not a bad thing. So here an overview of popular supplements during this pandemic.
Elderberry extract has actually shown in double blind, placebo controlled clinical trials to reduce reduce the duration of the common cold by 50% as well as reduce severity of symptoms by 50%.
Vitamin C is a popular home remedy that is proven to reduce severity and duration of the common cold (which is a coronavirus). It’s needed for your immune cells to function yet it won’t prevent you from catching the cold or flu. Keep in mind that mega doses of vitamin C were reportedly used in Chinese hospitals in the Wuhan area but this was intravenous vitamin C because such mega doses can not be absorbed via the oral route.
Zinc picolanate is taken by some people as there are indications that the malaria medicine Chloroquine works by making your body’s cells open up for zinc to be absorbed. It’s the zinc that it thought to help reduce symptoms of the SarsCOV2 virus or even combat it.
Vitamin D3, the fat-soluble vitamin plays a critical role in keeping your immune system healthy. Supplements are considered to help avoid deficiencies and thus protect against catching infections and diseases, and respiratory illnesses in general.
Oxygen saturation: a fifth vital sign? Source: PubMed.
Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial Source: US National Library of Medicine
First 12 patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the United States. Source: MedRXiv.org.
Amazon strongly suggests content creators to refer to the CDC website to provide “accurate information”. See cdc.gov.
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