As the second wave of the coronavirus ripples through India, setting new daily records and overwhelming the health infrastructure and capacity, experts are making fervent appeals to people to protect themselves and seek medical help in case they show Covid-19 symptoms. One of the most common symptoms is a drop in oxygen levels – a delay in treating it can put the person at risk for severe complications and death. To get help sooner, a pulse oximeter can help by alerting the person about the drop in oxygen levels. Exert opinion is, however, divided whether home monitoring by such gadgets should be recommended on a large scale for fear of a missed reading.
What is a pulse oximeter? A pulse oximeter is a small handy device similar to a cloth clip. A person is required to put one of their fingers inside the device (nail-side up) and within seconds it gives the numbers showing the oxygen saturation levels in the person's body (measured as a unit of SpO2). Most healthy people get a reading of 95 per cent and above. In some cases, where a person has some existing health condition, the reading can get below 95 per cent. But in normal cases, a user should consult a medical practitioner if the reading falls to 92-93 per cent. The device also gives the heartbeat reading, ranging for a healthy person between 60 to 100 beats per minute.
How does it work? The pulse oximeter measures the amount of oxygen sent to the part of the body farthest from the heart by beaming different wavelengths of light through the bloodstream when the finger is inserted into it. The haemoglobin in the blood then absorbs different amounts and wavelengths of light depending on the oxygen it is carrying and gives a numerical reading of its calculation.
Why do you need it? It is safe to keep a pulse oximeter at home and monitor your oxygen levels regularly, so that in case of a drop you can immediately seek medical assistance without losing time. Last year, as the pandemic was peaking around June, the Delhi government had decided to distribute oximeters to those in home isolation after being detected with Covid-19 infection.