Progress in technology and medical science has made it easier for people to keep track of their bodies, especially their oxygen saturation levels, blood pressure and blood glucose levels.
In the pandemic and the post-pandemic era, keeping track of blood oxygen levels has become one of the most common practices among health-conscious folk. It helps people detect and anticipate any medical emergency, such as COVID-19 before it worsens.
What are blood oxygen levels?
The blood oxygen levels measure the amount of oxygen the red blood cells carry. The maintenance of adequate amounts of blood oxygen is vital for the body. The human body is intelligent enough to regulate and monitor the oxygen saturation in the blood.
Healthy human beings do not need to regulate their blood oxygen levels explicitly. However, for people having chronic breathing issues like asthma, heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), monitoring blood oxygen might be a regular part of their daily routine.
Any deviation from normal blood oxygen levels can be a good indicator of an underlying health issue.
Why do you need to measure your blood oxygen levels?
Generally, healthy individuals may not be required to monitor their blood oxygen levels. Still, people suffering from respiratory disorders or heart problems might need to monitor their blood oxygen levels frequently.
Medical professionals might ask to measure blood oxygen levels in the case of-
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Lung cancer
- Heart attack or heart failure
- Congenital heart disease
Methods of measuring blood oxygen levels-
There are two different tests to measure the oxygen levels in the blood-
Arterial blood gas (ABG) is an invasive blood test that determines oxygen levels and other gases in the blood, along with its pH level.
Using a pulse oximeter is a non-invasive medical device that estimates the amount of oxygen in the blood. This method only gives an estimated spO2 value with a 2% error window.
What is considered a good blood oxygen level?
The amount of oxygen in the blood is called the oxygen saturation level. In medical terms, it is referred to asPaO2 when using the ABG and SpO2 when using a pulse oximeter.
Normal blood oxygen level
The average oxygen level in ABG for healthy lungs is between 80-100 millimetres of mercury (mm Hg). In contrast, if the blood oxygen is measured using a pulse oximeter, the normal SpO2 will typically fall between 95 to 100 per cent.
It is important to note that these normal blood oxygen levels only apply to healthy individuals with no breathing issues. For instance, it is difficult for people suffering from COPD or other lung disorders to maintain their SpO2 between 88-92 per cent.
Low blood oxygen level
Hypoxemia occurs when the oxygen saturation in the blood drops below the normal range. It is a cause of concern as it can indicate an underlying health condition.
Usually, blood oxygen levels are low when the PaO2 reading goes below 80 mm Hg or the SpO2 story goes below 95%. However, everyone’s average blood oxygen level might differ depending on their condition.
How to measure blood oxygen levels at home?
There are two ways to monitor blood oxygen levels at home. One, by using a portable pulse oximeter for more reliable readings and two, by relying on low blood oxygen symptoms.
A portable pulse oximeter is a non-invasive device similar to the one used at a doctor’s clinic to measure the oxygen saturation in the blood.
The pulse oximeter calculates the blood oxygen level using infrared light refraction by measuring how well oxygen binds to the red blood cells.
It is a very suitable way of keeping track of blood oxygen levels, and the best thing about pulse oximetry is that it is non-invasive. As a result, this device has more or less become a staple in most homes after the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition, it is used religiously by people who suffer from lung diseases or other similar health conditions.
How can a portable pulse oximeter measure blood oxygen levels at home?
To take a reading with a portable pulse or oximeter, one must remove nail polish or jewellery from the finger.
The pulse oximeter is then placed on the finger, toe or earlobe while keeping the body warm and relaxed. The device will display the reading as soon as it calculates the SpO2 levels.
How to monitor blood oxygen levels at home without a portable pulse oximeter?
Although it has become quite common, many people still do not have access to a portable pulse oximeter, but that does not mean there is no other way to monitor their blood oxygen levels.
To monitor blood oxygen levels without the help of a portable oximeter, one would need to rely on signs and symptoms of low blood oxygen.
The significant signs of low blood oxygen are-
A rapid heart rate– An average heart rate is between 60 to 100 beats per minute. When this level falls, oxygen saturation in the blood is likely low.
Fast breathing rate- The average breathing rate is between 12 to 20 breaths per minute. If the breathing rate increases beyond this, it is a definite sign that the body is struggling for oxygen.
Cyanosis– When the lips, nose and fingertips become bluish, it can mean that the body is deprived of oxygen.
How to increase blood oxygen levels?
Low blood oxygen is never a good sign, and there are a few natural remedies to increase blood oxygen levels-
- Breathing exercises like belly breathing and pursed lip breathing
- Engaging in physical activities
- Making lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, avoiding passive smoking and eating healthy food.
The bottom line-
Although most people are not required to monitor the oxygen saturation levels in their blood, it is never a poor idea to keep track of what is happening inside the body from time to time. However, blood oxygen measurement is almost an indispensable part of daily activities for people suffering from chronic respiratory conditions.
Keeping track of the signs and symptoms of low blood oxygen and using non-invasive devices like portable pulse oximeters can be an easy and convenient way of managing the daily blood oxygen readings within the comforts of home.