16 July, 2020
As with the case of any emerging pandemic, Coronavirus is also bringing a lot of new information to the forefront. With many states finding it difficult to cope with the surge in cases, home quarantine is something being advocated now. Perse, the Coronavirus is a flu-like disease, and most people recover from it without much difficulty. There is no cure and medicines provided even when you are hospitalised for managing the symptoms, and only to handle complications, if any.
In such a scenario, a few state governments have provided the citizens with the option of home quarantining. This means that even if the citizens have tested positive for Coronavirus, they are allowed to isolate themselves in a room at home. The authorities will be in touch to monitor the health regularly, and the patients will be shifted to the hospital if need be.
One of the monitoring measures applied is to keep an eye on the oxygen saturation levels in the body. This is done with the help of a device called an oximeter, and the one being used currently is a pulse oximeter. Suddenly, everyone is scrambling to buy one. So, what is this device, and do we need one at home?
What is an oximeter?
An oximeter is a simple medical device that allows the tracking of blood oxygen levels. This is required for many health conditions like cardiovascular diseases, lung cancer, asthma, pneumonia, anaemia, certain other pulmonary diseases, and of course, recently the Coronavirus. The most popular and simple device used for this purpose is called a pulse oximeter. This device is a painless and non-invasive detection method using which the medical professionals can gauge how the heart is supplying oxygen to the rest of the body. Most modern digital oximeters display the oxygenated haemoglobin levels as well as the pulse rate.
How does it work?
This is a small device and is simply clipped to the tip of your finger. With the help of infrared light passed through the finger, the sensors present on the device detect the blood oxygen levels. This is expected to be in the 95% to 100% range, and it is a matter of concern if the range drops below 92%. It is based on this reading that the doctors may decide if you need to be put on oxygen, and further treatment procedures as well.
This device is used to monitor the blood oxygen reading to rule out any chances of COVID pneumonia in asymptomatic patients. Early detection is said to be the key to provide timely treatment to patients for their recovery. Many people are getting to hospitals when it is too late as they were not monitoring the oxygen levels and then developed breathlessness. Unfortunately, their oxygen levels would have dipped too low and results in a fatality.
It is to avoid this that the government is requesting people under home quarantine to monitor their oxygen levels and report the readings diligently. This allows the health authorities to shift the patient, timely to a hospital and provide necessary treatment.
Should I get one?
Just like a thermometer, this may well become a common device in our homes, especially if we have to learn to live with Coronavirus. Many people may already be having one at home, in case they are already suffering from any of the chronic diseases that need oxygen level monitoring. Since it is not an expensive device, you could choose to buy one to monitor the readings, if you wish to.
As the number of asymptomatic patients is rising, elders who have family members or helps, going in and out every day, can opt for one. Sometimes, despite all precautions, we may contract the disease, find it only too late. Hence, there is no harm in procuring an oximeter and using it for the safety of all family members.
However, it is best to consult your physician to see if this is needed for you. It is not a must, and the readings should not be interpreted by self, as linked to the Coronavirus. A teleconsultation with the physician describing your other symptoms/conditions can help understand if you need to undergo the COVID-19 test because of the low oxygen reading. There are other factors to be taken into account, and there is no need to panic, in case the reading is low. If you choose to buy one, it is easily available online or in medical shops.
Note: Senior citizens found to be Corona positive may have to be necessarily hospitalised, according to respective state government guidelines. Also, an oximeter to monitor the oxygen levels is provided by certain state governments for confirmed patients under home quarantine.
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