Best Life: Pulse oximeters help monitor oxygen levels from home

Updated: Jun. 5, 2020 at 6:40 AM CDT
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NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. (Ivanhoe Newswire) --- Many patients who contract COVID-19 develop pneumonia and in some cases, patients don’t realize they have pneumonia until it’s very hard for them to catch their breath. A small medical device can help patients monitor their oxygen levels at home so they can have an early warning if their lungs aren’t working right.

For Brad Weaver and his 18-year old daughter Emma, COVID-19 means they have to be extra vigilant.

“Emma is special needs, non- verbal, she needs assistance walking and so forth. And so, she’s a high-risk,” Brad shared.

Since Emma can’t tell her dad if she’s not feeling well, Brad takes her temperature under her arm and he uses this to monitor Emma’s blood oxygen levels.

The pulse oximeter can detect even small changes in the way lungs move oxygen to the rest of the body. Emergency medicine physician Richard Levitan volunteered on the COVID front lines helping former colleagues at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. He was shocked when he assessed some patients coming in the ER with COVID symptoms.

“They had oxygen saturation as low as 50 percent, normal is above 94 percent, and they were talking to us. They were not in shock. They were not lethargic. The thing their body had done, which they didn’t even realize, was in order to accommodate that low oxygen, they were silently breathing faster, and they were doing that for days. Until all of a sudden they developed shortness of breath,” recalled Levitan.

Dr. Levitan recommends using pulse oximeters at home. Especially if patients are high-risk. He says watching for low oxygen levels could help people recognize the early signs of COVID pneumonia.

Levitan explains, “If we could detect the pneumonia earlier, then many, many more patients could avoid ventilators."

It’s not a cure for COVID, but it gives families, like the Weavers, a little peace of mind.

The pulse oximeters are available over the counter at most drug stores ranging in cost from 40 to about 70 dollars. While the device is most often used on the index finger, some studies have shown accurate readings on the third finger of your dominant hand or the thumb of your dominant hand. Dr. Levitan says while normal is 94 or above, most hospitals won’t release patients who register under 92. So, if levels are that low, it might be a signal your lungs aren’t working efficiently.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive & Field Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

Copyright 2020 WMC. All rights reserved.