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The Importance Of Checking SpO2 Levels In The COVID-19 Crisis

  • timeline Dr. Pragnya rao
  • 5 Min Read

Some states in India have been on COVID-19 lockdown a while in order to help control the spread of the novel virus. The management of cases has become harder to control, but it’s important to remember that relevant information can help those in need. The virus, named SARS-CoV-2 causes a respiratory illness where patients often complain of shortness of breath and chest tightness apart from fever, cough and fatigue among other symptoms. The surge in cases has also caused the sensitization of terms like ‘oxygen saturation’ and ‘pulse oximeter’ in associated with the COVID-19 infection. What is it? Why is it important? Read to to find out how MFine’s SpO2 tracker can help you monitor your SpO2 levels from the comfort of your own home using just your smartphone.

The healthcare system is overburdened with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic- not just for those who are infected but also for the management of various non-COVID conditions and emergencies. While MFine has clinicians from over 30 specialties who are not only devoting time to the frontline but also are being available online in order to tend to patients, it must become our duty at this critical time to stay informed and safe at home so we can help flatten the curve!

What is oxygen saturation or SpO2?

Haemoglobin present in the blood carries oxygen to the cells of the body. This process is very important to ensure the proper functioning of organs and tissues. Any deficiency of oxygen can lead to adverse effects on individual organ systems. Oxygen saturation (SpO2) is a fraction of oxygen-saturated haemoglobin, in relation to the total haemoglobin present in the blood. The normal values of SpO2 range from 93 and 100%. Values are usually between 94-96 per cent. However, a value below 90% during a COVID-19 infection can indicate low oxygen level, also known as hypoxemia. Hypoxemia can lead to multiple issues like organ failure and cardiac arrest if not treated on time. 

Why is SpO2 important to monitor?

Your SpO2 can help determine your lung and heart health and so is very important when it comes to COVID-19 management.. If SpO2 levels are <94 (<90, after a 6 min walk test), a doctor needs to be consulted immediately.

Doctor’s advice: When checking SpO2 Levels/Oxygen saturation levels
– Ensure hands aren’t cold, and remove nail paint when checking SpO2
– 6 minute walk test: Walk for 6 min and check saturation, a drop > 5% is significant

There are many reasons why one could have low oxygen saturation. A low SpO2 is seen in patients who are suffering from respiratory distress, COPD, asthma and anaemia among others.  In some patients who have tested positive for COVID-19, the infection can lead to fluid-filled air sacs, which in turn can lead to pneumonia. This translates to respiratory distress, thereby causing the patient to experience shortness of breath, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, etc.  Some patients may have low oxygen saturation and still have no symptoms. Asymptomatic patients who have been found to have COVID-19 may be unaware of the SpO2 depletion if they are able to breathe just fine. Moreover, some might experience confusion and even feel euphoric which cannot be directly linked to oxygen deprivation. This is being commonly dubbed as ‘Happy Hypoxia’. A gradual drop in oxygen saturation has been noticed in COVID positive patients. This has in turn brought forward the importance of checking SpO2 levels

How are SpO2 levels monitored?

A pulse oximeter is usually used to determine SpO2 levels. It is is a non-invasive device that measures the blood oxygen level. It works by using infrared rays to measure the amount of oxygen (blood gas) present in the capillaries, especially in the finger-pulp.  A fingertip is inserted into the device and is held there for 6-10 seconds. The values of SpO2 and pulse rate are displayed on the device. Having dark nail-polish or cold extremities can show lower values of SpO2 than it actually is. It is advised to remove any nail polish since it can interfere with the accuracy of the measurement. 

MFine can help you track your SpO2 levels from home

You can now detect your SpO2 levels without a pulse oximeter, and directly from your phone. The MFine app uses your smartphone camera and flash to detect your blood volume changes using your fingertip. The SpO2 monitoring tool is free to use on the MFine App and can be used on any smartphone that has a back camera and flash, along with an internet connection. The simple tool is able to measure your oxygen saturation and therefore is helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you are in the high-risk group (people with diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, etc) or if you are home-quarantined after testing positive for COVID-19, then it would be a good idea to have a pulse oximeter with you. If the SpO2 levels are dropping below 90 per cent, you will need hospitalisation and inhalational oxygen as part of your treatment. 

Keeping yourself informed about your health during these testing times can contribute to the well being of you and your family. You do not need a prescription to buy a pulse oximeter. This simple device could potentially save a life and alleviate panic around such situations. If you have any flu-related symptoms, make sure that you isolate yourself at home and consult doctors online on MFine. You can also take an assessment test to examine the level of risk of exposure you might have. 

How to use MFine SpO2 tracker from the app 

The MFine app uses your smartphone camera and flash to detect your blood volume changes using your fingertip. The simple tool is able to measure your oxygen saturation with no hassles and for free. A pulse oximter isn’t always handy, and patients that need their SpO2 levels monitored will be greatly helped with MFine’s SpO2 tracker.

  1. Download the MFine App and find the SpO2 tracker tool under the COVID-19 care section
  2. Click on the SpO2 banner
  3. Click on ‘Measure’
  4. Place your finger firmly over the back camera light
  5. Measurement will begin once the screen turns bright red
  6. Your SpO2 level will be displayed on screen after 20 seconds

If you’re having trouble understanding how the tool works, click the ‘How It Works’ while on step (3) to understand the process better.

SPO2 MFine Tool

Points to remember while using the tool

  • Make sure the smartphone’s camera lens is clean
  • Don’t measure SpO2 levels with the tool in direct sunlight or another bright light
  • For phone that have multiple camera lenses, use the one that turns the screen red when your finger is placed on it

Benefits of using MFine’s SpO2 tracker 

While a pulse oximeter does its job well, having an app that can quickly track your SpO2 can be essential in these times. With the medical infrastructure collapsing during India’s second wave, efficient and urgent action when it comes to ill patients can be life saving. Some patients require home care after testing positive, and MFine’s SpO2 tracker tool can help them monitor their SpO2 without a hassle.

Download the MFine app to access the SpO2 monitoring tool. It is free and can be used on any (Android) smartphone that has a back camera and flash, along with an internet connection.

We’re here to help you ride this second wave, download the MFine app today!

  • timeline
  • Written by

    Dr. Pragnya rao

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managing chronic illness

oxygen levels covid

oxygen saturation

pulse oximeter

spo2 levels

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