How to monitor your blood oxygen level at home

Published Jul 15, 2020


CAPE TOWN - Shortness of breath may be a symptom most Covid-19 patients experience, but there are simple ways to monitor your oxygen levels at home.

According to a Scripps Research study, 45 percent of all Covid-19 cases result in asymptomatic patients but shortness in breath or difficulty breathing may cause alarm yet could be caused by many factors other than Covid-19.

Difficulty breathing can be caused by anxiety, asthma and allergic reaction and although shortness of breath may be a deadly symptom, which around 30 percent of Covid-19 patients face, to avoid panic and unnecessary Covid-19 testing here are a couple of ways to test your blood oxygen levels at home to help inform you on your condition.

Fitness watch:

Fitness watches are great devices that come with many purposes with the most modern devices focusing on fitness and health providing features such as heartbeats per minute, movement tracking and some with blood oxygen features such as SpO2 reading (Blood saturation levels) with devices providing accurate results within a minute. Although these may be pricey, there are cheaper devices and alternatives.

Pulse Oximeter:

Pulse oximeters are little devices that are clipped to the end of your finger or toe that measures your pulses and bloody oxygen levels. There are devices you can purchase from selected pharmacies, online or through certain medical aids, like Discovery, which provides such devices to qualifying members.

Tracking your heart rate and breathing:

Common signs of low blood oxygen levels are faster breathing and faster heart rate. This is the way the body automatically reacts to low counts in efforts to increase your blood oxygen level. Tracking your breathing rate may be difficult as focusing on it may affect how you breathe but taking your BPM becomes easier the more you practice. On average, normal breathing rate is 12–20 breaths per minute and a normal heart rate may vary with 60–100 beats per minute. Here's a video on how to check your BPM:

Identifying common signs of low oxygen levels:

A common sign reported amongst Covid-19 patients suffering from low levels of oxygen has seen a bluish tint to their toes and feet. Although signs may vary per person, these are the common indicators - changes in the colour of the skin, confusion, coughing, fast heart rate, rapid breathing, shortness of breath, sweating and wheezing.

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