Do I still need a home pulse oximeter to monitor Covid-19?

The magnitude of the advantage has surprised even some of the strongest proponents of home oxygen monitoring. Dr Richard Levitan, an eme...


The magnitude of the advantage has surprised even some of the strongest proponents of home oxygen monitoring. Dr Richard Levitan, an emergency doctor who sounded the alarm on silent hypoxia in a guest essay for The Times, called the results “astonishing”.

“It’s extremely rare in medicine to show such a difference in treatment, especially with such a complicated disease,” said Dr. Levitan, who practices at Littleton Regional Healthcare in New Hampshire. “It all happened with different management, in different hospitals, as the pandemic unfolded. To have a 50 percent difference in mortality is phenomenal. We hardly ever see such a big benefit as this.

The researchers said the difference in mortality between the two groups appeared to be explained by people monitoring their oxygen levels at home seeing a doctor earlier in their illness. Of the patients who went to the hospital, those who had used a home pulse oximeter had lower levels of inflammation, as measured by a C-reactive protein (CRP) test.

In addition to helping patients know when to seek medical attention, a pulse oximeter can reduce anxiety after a diagnosis of Covid-19. Ms Collie said she benefited directly after suffering a breakthrough infection this summer, despite having been fully vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. She had a cough and chest tightness and regularly monitored her oxygen levels at home. “It gives a lot of comfort to check where you are at,” she said. “This monitoring can change your risk of a very bad outcome. I think it’s extremely stimulating.

To use a pulse oximeter, press down on the device to open it as you would with a clip or clothespin, and place your finger comfortably inside. The device emits different wavelengths of light through your finger. It targets hemoglobin, a protein molecule in your blood that carries oxygen. Your pulse oximeter will give you a digital reading – a percentage that indicates the level of oxygen saturation in your blood. Within seconds, it lights up with numbers showing your blood oxygen level and heart rate.

Most healthy people will get an oxygen reading of around 95-99%. Some people with existing health problems may have a lower normal reading. In general, doctors say you should see a doctor if the number drops rapidly or drops below 94.

But the accuracy of the device may vary, especially in dark skinned patients. One study found that the result was not accurate in 1 in 10 cases Black patients. A dark-skinned person can still use the device, but doctors say it’s important to watch out for any downward trend in oxygen readings, rather than focusing on a particular number. If you’re sick at home with Covid-19 and your normal reading drops four points or more, there’s a good reason to call your doctor. Dark nail polish can also interfere with reading.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Do I still need a home pulse oximeter to monitor Covid-19?
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