In this article in the New York Times from April 20, 2020, Dr. Richard Levitan MD, an emergency room doctor, reports that he and his colleagues are finding that most people diagnosed with Covid-19 show low levels of blood oxygenation. But even many people who have no symptoms have low blood oxygenation, and actually have early but serious pneumonia without knowing it. If identified and treated early, these people with no obvious symptoms, can usually be saved from needing drastic measures such as being put on a ventilator.
“There is a way we could identify more patients who have Covid pneumonia sooner and treat them more effectively — and it would not require waiting for a coronavirus test at a hospital or doctor’s office. It requires detecting silent hypoxia early through a common medical device that can be purchased without a prescription at most pharmacies: a pulse oximeter.”
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I think every individual or family should have a pulse oximiter to detect early signs of pneumonia. They’re easily available online or at a pharmacy and should cost less than $30, although I have seen the exact same unit selling for twice that amout.
Some people with underlying health conditions such as COPD (the lung disease most commonly seen in older smokers) who will have low oxygen all the time. And if you do have low oxygen saturation you should call your doctor or urgent care for interpretation. Normally oxygen saturation, or pO2, should be between 90 and 100. Between 97 and 98 is ideal. And the pulse rate should definitely be below 90 if you are resting. With Covid, many people will start to experience lower lung function long before they feel sick, have a fever or notice loss of breath. Since it is often not possible to get tested or tested frequently enough, this simple device can provide a critical early warning.
To use the oximeter, you should take time to relax. If you have just exercised or in a panicky state, you can get a false read
What Dr. Levitan found out working at Bellvue Hospital Emergency Department in New York City, was that virtually every patient who came in had Covid pneumonia, even patients who came in for injuries. And several of his colleagues picked up early pneumonia in themselves by using the oximeter, and we able to get early treatment. Most of these patients had signs of pneumonia on x-ray or CT scans even though they were not complaining of shortness of breath.
“All patients who have tested positive for the coronavirus should have pulse oximetry monitoring for two weeks, the period during which Covid pneumonia typically develops. All persons with cough, fatigue and fevers should also have pulse oximeter monitoring even if they have not had virus testing, or even if their swab test was negative, because those tests are only about 70 percent accurate. A vast majority of Americans who have been exposed to the virus don’t know it.”
If you are feeling healthy and if you have good oxygen saturation, this is a great time to pay attention to your lungs by keeping moving. It’s easy to become a couch potato while quarantined. It is OK to get out and walk or run. Even just moving around indoors is better than sitting all day. I’m using my TurboO2 setup to improve my own oxygen capacity. As well as taking fast walks on forest trails. It’s a great time to try Wim Hof’s breathing program which is now available on a phone app as well as on YouTube. His complete program has been shown to boost the immune system. And these techniques can help you even if you already have compromised lung function, and you can see improvements using the pulse oximeter.
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