General, Research, Technology

Self-measurement of blood oxygen can save you from death with coronavirus

The New York Times recently published materialemergency doctor Richard Levitan, in which he shares his observations on pneumonia caused by coronavirus. He watched various patients with confirmed COVID-19 for 10 days and came to rather disturbing conclusions: it turns out that many patients who are asymptomatic with the virus started to have bilateral pneumonia of the lungs long before they felt at least some malaise or experienced problems with breathing. As a result, when pneumonia reached its peak and began to make itself felt - it was too late. Such patients must be connected to a mechanical ventilation apparatus (IVL), which is sorely lacking throughout the world. But even mechanical ventilation at this stage may not help and the patient dies. It's all about the level of oxygen in the blood. You can measure it at home, the main thing is to know how to do it and be ready to act ahead of the curve.

As it turned out, COVID pneumonia can be a bigger threat than we thought.

In his publication, Levitan says that induring these 10 days he met with completely different patients. One of them was a man with a knife wound to his shoulder, who was "enlightened" with an X-ray for fear of lung collapse, and found COVID pneumonia. Other patients underwent computed tomography after falling injuries and accidentally again discovered COVID pneumonia. Approximately the same picture was observed in elderly patients who lost consciousness or in patients with diabetes mellitus. And what most surprised the doctors was the lack of complaints about breathing problems, although with such pneumonia and oxygen levels well below normal, they simply could not help but appear.


  • 1 Blood oxygen level in coronavirus
  • 2 What is the danger of pneumonia in coronavirus?
  • 3 How do blood oxygen meters work?
  • 4 How much are pulse oximeters
  • 5 Can fitness bracelets or smart watches measure blood oxygen levels

Coronavirus Oxygen Blood Level

COVID pneumonia - pneumonia caused by the new coronavirus COVID-19

Practice shows that COVID pneumonia causesform of oxygen deficiency. In this state, the level of oxygen in the blood falls below normal values. But the problem is that identifying this condition can be very difficult. With common pneumonia, shortness of breath, chest discomfort, or breathing pain begins. With the onset of these symptoms, the patient consults doctors who can quickly diagnose the disease and begin treatment. In the case of COVID pneumonia, there are no such symptoms, and the disease progresses rapidly.

Normal level an oxygen saturation in the blood is considered an indicator of 94% - 100%. The critical state is fixed at values ​​of 50% - 60%

Most patients at an early stage feltseveral other symptoms: cough, fever, fatigue, or upset stomach. There were no breathing problems. And with the onset of such problems, they immediately turned to doctors who diagnosed COVID pneumonia, which lasts more than one day. In the case of common pneumonia, patients are intubated in very severe conditions. They may be in shock, in an altered mental state, and wheeze. In the acute stages, a person may be unconscious or painfully strain all his muscles for a sigh. But patients with COVID-pneumonia can have a critically low level of oxygen in the blood and still talk on the phone calmly. But why is this happening?

During COVID pneumonia, a person may not feel the symptoms of the disease and this is very dangerous

What is dangerous pneumonia with coronavirus?

I will not go into medical terms, butI will try to explain in simple terms. COVID pneumonia causes inflammation, which leads to the destruction of the alveoli (small vesical structures) in the lungs and a decrease in the level of oxygen in the blood. At the same time, the lungs continue to maintain their elasticity and remove carbon dioxide. Without the accumulation of carbon dioxide, our body does not feel shortness of breath. To increase the level of oxygen in the blood, a person begins to breathe faster and deeper, without even realizing it. As a result, such a reaction causes even more inflammation and pneumonia is aggravated to such an extent that the level of oxygen in the blood begins to fall even more. Thus, the patient himself injures his lungs while breathing harder. In 20% of cases after this, the second stage of damage occurs, when the fluid in the lungs accumulates more and more, they lose their elasticity, the level of carbon dioxide increases and the person begins to suffocate. At this moment, patients with COVID-pneumonia begin to see a doctor, but the level of oxygen in the blood approaches a critical level and sometimes it can only be saved by connecting to a ventilator. Such cases explain cases of sudden death of a patient who do not feel breathing problems until the last moment.

Elon Musk already makes mechanical ventilation from the spare parts of his electric car Tesla Model 3

And here we go to the main thing. If a person knew about the level of oxygen in the blood or could always control it - this would definitely save more than one life. It turns out that such a device is also for home use. It is called a "pulse oximeter" and is able to track the pulse and oxygen level in the blood. Using it is very simple. The device is put on the tip of the finger, the button is pressed and after a few seconds you see the result on its screen. Such devices are often used by doctors to determine their own coronavirus at an early stage and take appropriate measures.

Of course, conducting tests at home andgetting the results you need to understand that only a specialist can give a final conclusion. Sometimes we can get values ​​slightly deviated from the norm after illnesses, chronic diseases, or as a result of the characteristics of the body. However, if you have been diagnosed with coronavirus, or if you have any related symptoms, such as coughing, fever, weakness, etc. measuring the level of oxygen in the blood will definitely not be superfluous.

How do blood oxygen meters work?

Pulse oximeter - it is a device for non-invasive (without skin puncture)measuring heart rate and oxygen level in the blood. The principle of operation is quite simple. Firstly, the hemoglobin in our blood refracts two beams of light of different wavelengths differently depending on its saturation with oxygen. And secondly, the light passing through our tissues begins to pulse with every heartbeat. Thus, letting in light of two wavelengths and fixing the refraction and pulsation frequency with a special sensor - a pulse oximeter can determine our heart rate and blood oxygen saturation. For measurements just a few seconds.

On the open spaces of the App Store and Google PlayYou can find many applications for iPhone or Android phones that can measure heart rate and oxygen level in the blood. There are no questions with pulse measurement programs, everything is quite simple there: a bright flash illuminates your finger, and the camera captures the pulsation in the blood with every heart beat. But we do not advise you to measure the level of oxygen in the blood with such programs. For them, a conventional camera will not be enough, you need special beams and a sensor that captures them. Using such programs can sow panic, as show results actually from the ceiling.

How much are pulse oximeters

The device looks something like this, although there may be variations

It is not sad, but their prices are significantlyrose after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. We can’t say that they cost unbearable money, but a few months ago they could be bought 2-3 times cheaper. A cursory study of the proposals showed that today the cost in Russia varies from 5,000 to 10,000 rubles and they are available. Is it worth it to start buying them upside down -the question is open. If you sit at home and you have absolutely no symptoms, then you can not particularly rush. If you are worried about something described above, but there is no desire to take risks and visit hospitals during this difficult time, it may make sense to study several options for home pulse oximeters.

Can fitness bracelets or smart watches measure blood oxygen levels?

Yes they can! And this is great news. There are many bracelets on the market from well-known companies that you can trust. For example, bracelets with support for measuring the level of oxygen in the blood are Huawei, Honor, Samsung, Xiaomi and many other smaller manufacturers. The cost of such fitness bracelets starts from 1,500 rubles and affordable for everyone.

But Apple with its Apple Watch is everythingstill hesitating. It was reported that even the first generation of watches had the necessary sensors for such a measurement, but so far Apple has not enabled this feature at the software level. According to the latest data, we will get the long-awaited feature this year along with the release of iOS 14 this fall.

My colleague with Ivan Kuznetsov even wrote material about why he would buy a watch from Samsung, not from Apple. Hint: blood oxygen counts

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Now that you’ve started to understand COVID pneumoniaa little more, then when choosing another wearable gadget - pay attention to measuring the level of oxygen in the blood. If it weren’t for a pandemic, perhaps you would never have known what this sensor can show and how it can be useful.