Simple £20 device could help identify if you are falling severely ill with coronavirus, docs say – The Sun

A SIMPLE £20 device could help identify if you are falling severely ill with coronavirus, doctors say.

Pulse oximeters clip over the fingertip or ear to measure blood oxygen levels in the body and tell you how well the heart and lungs are working.

⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates

The matchbox-sized devices – which can be bought online or from shops like Argos – may be essential for those with serious lung problems.

Richard Levitan, an American doctor, said that the amount of patients who need a ventilator could be significantly reduced if people with Covid-19 symptoms such as a dry cough and high temperature monitored themselves using a pulse oximeter.

He told The New York Times: "Widespread pulse oximetry screening for Covid pneumonia — whether people check themselves on home devices or go to clinics or doctors’ offices — could provide an early warning system for the kinds of breathing problems associated with Covid pneumonia…

"Avoiding the use of a ventilator is a huge win for both patient and the health care system."

Early warning system

He added that pulse oximeters, which can be bought for £23, had helped to save two of his friends.

Detection of low oxygen levels, early treatment and close monitoring also appeared to have helped Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Pulse oximeters work by emitting a beat of light through the finger to a sensor on the other side of the unit.

Oxygenated and unoxygenated blood absorbs light differently, so the device looks at the pattern of light to determine the amount of oxygen in the blood.

That reading is then displayed on its digital screen.

A number above 95 per cent is normal for a healthy person at rest.


Don't miss the latest news and figures – and essential advice for you and your family.

To receive The Sun's Coronavirus newsletter in your inbox every tea time, sign up here.
To follow us on Facebook, simply 'Like' our Coronavirus page.
Get Britain's best-selling newspaper delivered to your smartphone or tablet each day – find out more.

But for people with conditions that cause breathing difficulties – often categorised under the term chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – the figure can be much lower.

Those patients can use them to track changes in blood oxygen levels and determine whether or not their medication needs to be adjusted or even if they need to go to hospital.

The devices became common in GP practices around five years ago and more recently, people have started using them at home.

British experts say that pulse oximeters could provide a valuable early warning but cautioned that the gadgets might not pick up warning signs when patients had been resting.

Warning signs

Professor Babak Javid, consultant in infectious diseases at Cambridge University Hospitals, told The Times: "In a number of patients, it may be that mild exercise, such as walking for a few minutes, would push up their oxygen demands so much that the lungs can no longer cope, and their blood oxygen saturation dramatically falls.

"These patients are likely to be at risk of becoming severely unwell in a few hours, or a day or two, but if this ‘post-exercise saturation’ test is not performed, they may be falsely reassured that they are not seriously unwell."

Despite this, Dr Nick Summerton, former adviser to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), urged everyone with serious lung conditions to be issued with a pulse oximeter on prescription.

He says that it means patients can monitor their oxygen levels at home if they start developing coronavirus symptoms.

If their levels fall dangerously low, it could allow them to quickly alert their GP – without having to go to the surgery.

This is vital because the device can pick up falling blood oxygen levels before a patient shows symptoms – such as breathlessness or blueness of the lips or fingers.

Dr Summerton said that monitoring blood oxygen levels could provide an early warning that their condition is deteriorating.

He recommends that when someone first gets a pulse oximeter, they should take an initial reading to gauge what is a normal level for them.

"After that, if they get any Covid-19 symptoms, they should monitor it at home every few hours," he told the Daily Mail.

What we want to do is pick up people with coronavirus early

"If their oxygen saturation drops by 2 or 3 per cent, they should call their GP, specialist nurse or 111."

Dr Summerton urged healthy people to avoid buying the devices as they are needed for people with severe lung conditions.

He added: "What we want to do is pick up people with coronavirus early. There is no need for your average fit 30-year-old to buy one. They need to be available for those who would really benefit from them."

Coronavirus symptoms generally are a persistent cough and a fever, but some will go on to develop breathing problems.

Give now to The Sun's NHS appeal

BRITAIN’s four million NHS staff are on the frontline in the battle against coronavirus.

But while they are helping save lives, who is there to help them?

The Sun has launched an appeal to raise £1MILLION for NHS workers.

The Who Cares Wins Appeal aims to get vital support to staff in their hour of need.

We have teamed up with NHS Charities Together in their urgent Covid-19 Appeal to ensure the money gets to exactly who needs it.

The Sun is donating £50,000 and we would like YOU to help us raise a million pounds, to help THEM.

No matter how little you can spare, please donate today here

The virus can multiply in the respiratory tract, which affects the airways, making it harder to breathe normally.

It can develop into a severe condition known as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

Those patients will be admitted to intensive care where they may need a ventilator to help get oxygen moving around the body.

Source: Read Full Article