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Oxygen Deprivation in Covid-19 Patients and Self-Care to Maintain it

Medikoe Health Expert

Medikoe Health Expert

  Koramangala, bengaluru, karnataka, india, Bengaluru     May 13, 2021

   6 min     



Coronavirus cases are expanding manifestly across the country and filling up the beds of hospitals. Some needing critical care are searching for beds and oxygen supply when there’s an urgent shortage of the same. People are also running for crucial supplies and resources- right from ICU beds, oxygen cylinders to medicines. 

Now, shortness of breath, silent hypoxia or oxygen deprivation are typical symptoms caused by the COVID-19 infection. Many patients, troubling about these symptoms, are already gathering up on oxygen support cylinders and machines at home, rushing to hospitals. But, not every COVID-19 patient suffering breathing problems require urgent hospitalisation. Dr Randeep Guleria, Director of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), lately also put the matter, saying that not every patient needs oxygen therapy and doing so inconsistently deprives it for the ones who actually require it. 

It’s crucial to understand that breathlessness and varying oxygen levels are concerning matters but do not need urgent hospitalisation. The only time a COVID-positive patient really needs hospitalisation is when the symptoms become severe and begin to affect vital functioning. 

At a critical point like this, it’s crucial to know what oxygen saturation really is and when it is the right time to ask for medical help. 

Oxygen Saturation and COVID-19

Oxygen saturation indicates the level of oxygenated haemoglobin in the blood, which is carried from the lungs to different organs and aids in sustaining necessary functioning.  

SpO2 level readings between 94-100 are supposedly healthy, and readings below 94 can lead to hypoxemia, which can trigger further problems. Below 90 readings are regarded to be warning signs and call for medical assistance. With COVID, however, the oxygen supply in an individual’s body could be severely affected and is also usually considered as a sign of the extremity of the disease. 

The SARS-COV-2 virus can begin extensive inflammation in the lungs and the chest cavity, forming glass-like opacities (observed via X-rays and CT scans) that affect the oxygenated blood supply in the body.

What is Oxygen Deprivation?

Breathing problems, shortness of breath, chest discomfort are all signs of oxygen deprivation. However, in a few cases, dropping oxygen levels and shortness of breath could hinder respiratory infections, affect vital organs and their regular functioning in the body. It could also grow up in the form of ARDS or Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, which demands emergency aid.

Not all cases of oxygen deprivation and respiratory symptoms need critical care or hospitalisation; rather, it could be adequately managed to an extent at home itself. Intensive care to the COVID+ patients actually depends on these below factors:

  • When oxygen level goes beyond 91 for 1-2 hours
  • Dipping oxygen levels and pain in the chest or lungs
  • Continuous coughing
  • Short of breath, huffing and puffing
  • Restlessness
  • Throbbing headache
  • Bluish lips or discolouration of the face
  • Confusion, fever and loss of consciousness

How to increase your oxygen levels?

Due to the continuing wave in coronavirus cases, the country has been struggling with the shortage of oxygen supply. Social media is inundated with messages of people asking for oxygen refills and oxygen cylinders for their family and friends. However, numerous people are in-home quarantine and are managing and monitoring themselves and their oxygen level on their own. Here are a few ways through which one can improve their oxygen levels:

Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises are a great way to better lung health as they improve lung muscles. They can aid in clearing any secretion and strengthening the capacity by endowing a sufficient amount of oxygen. Some of the few yoga asanas that you can try to increase your oxygen levels are: 

  • Anulom-vilom

It is also known as alternate nostril breathing. It aids clear out nasal passage and enhances respiratory muscle strength. Practise it in the morning on an empty stomach or after a long gap post-meal in the evening.

  • Matsyasana / Fish Pose

Also known as the fish pose, Matsyasana benefits in keeping the balance of supplying equal amounts of oxygen in your blood. It also helps in raising the blood circulation in your body. 

  • Bhramari

Bhramari, a humming exercise, helps increase nitric oxide in the body and works as vasodilators (meaning it helps with improved blood flow through the vessels and inhibits muscles from tightening).

Prone Position

The proning method is tried, tested and proven scientifically. It has been determined to be helpful for patients in home isolation and even those who are hospitalised or on a ventilator. In this method, a person lies down with their chest lifted and places one pillow beneath their neck, one beneath the chest and two below the shins. While being in this position, they need to practice rapid breathing.

You can also practice proning by following the below-mentioned steps for 30 minutes each

– Sleep on your belly

– Lay down on your left side

– Lay down on the right side

– Sleep on your belly

– Sit up with a pillow on your back

Things to keep in mind while practising proning

It is necessary to avoid practising proning at least for an hour post-meal. While proning, if your body experiences trouble, it is recommended to stop the method immediately.

As per the experts, a patient can prone up to 10 hours a day in numerous cycles, but it is important to keep track of any injuries, particularly around bony areas. This should be performed only after discussing with your doctor or if a bed is not available in the hospital and you are waiting.

Drinking Healthy Fluids

A person requires to be hydrated in order to increase the oxygen levels. Drinking sufficient water can keep a person hydrated, and it raises the oxygen level as H2O is composed of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, helping the body with improved oxygen level.

Consuming Iron-Rich Foods

To increase the oxygen level, one should eat iron-rich foods. The iron-rich foods help to boost the blood circulation in the body, and it gives oxygen to the lungs, heart and other organs. 

Light Physical Exercise

It is recommended to practice light physical exercise regularly like brisk walking, treadmill walking, skipping are all good as long as they are within your maximum bearable limit. However, if you experience more body ache, or are very much tired, do not exercise more. 

You can also try the 6-minute walk test if you are in home isolation. Measure your oxygen level with an oximeter. The ideal oxygen saturation is between 96 to 100. Now, walk around for 6 minutes, and remeasure your oxygen level. If the oxygen level drops more than 5 points, you are likely to get a respiratory infection and might require hospital care. 

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Tags:  Fitness ,Respiratory health,Heart Health ,General health ,low oxygen level, silent hypoxia, lung health, proning, brisk walking, 6-minute walk test, COVID-19, corona virus

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