Imagine you have mild or modest COVID-19 symptoms and are told to stay at home. How would you know if the infection had gotten worse and you needed to head to the hospital?
Doctors have been seeing what some are calling “happy hypoxics” -– individuals “appearing comfortable” with modest symptoms but suffering from greatly reduced blood oxygen saturation/lung function. Hypoxia is a is a “bright line” symptom requiring further evaluation. Even if most such hypoxia cases improve on their own, with COVID-19, it can transition rapidly to needing intubation and ventilation. Early intervention can often allow hospitals to treat hypoxia outside of the ICU with much simpler, non-invasive CPAP or BiPAP ventilators, the same class of devices used for sleep apnea.
In an April 24 Medscape article, “COVID-19: Home Pulse Oximeters Could be a Game Changer…” an ER doctor in New York points out, “Everyone is coming in too late,” and goes on to explain that the pulse oximeter is a key tool for assessing the severity of the COVID infection. The pulse oximeter is a small, fairly inexpensive, over-the-counter device that shines light through a fingertip to measure blood oxygen saturation (SpO2). Another doctor commented, “Relying on subjective telephone follow-ups consults to assess COVID outpatients can be falsely reassuring without pulse oximetry. And higher risk patients should have readings taken somehow.” Continue reading