Being aware of oxygen levels in the body is essential for preventing complications caused by the novel coronavirus.
Just as a burglar might sneak around someone’s home without being noticed, silent hypoxia acts in this same way in a patient’s body. It’s an oxygen deficiency in the body, and whoever suffers from it doesn’t perceive it. Hence the adjective “silent”. It appears for different reasons, one of them being Covid-19.
“It’s a peculiarity of this disease that patients don’t have trouble breathing. Nevertheless, when we do an oximetry test, we realize that patients present low oxygen levels,” explains Rafael Argüello Astorga, Director of the Institute of Genomic Medicine and Science in Torreón, Coahuila, in an interview for Tec Review.
According to this specialist, its physiopathology (the relationship between bodily functions and possible alterations) has not been entirely proven. However, it seems that on a pulmonary level, it causes minute thrombi associated with respiratory deficiency.
It’s a different physiopathology to that seen in conventional pneumonias, where respiratory difficulty or hypoxia is very evident in patients.
“In silent hypoxia, the fact that patients don’t have difficulty breathing means a delay in medical treatment to resolve the problems caused,” says Argüello Astorga.
This may make it necessary to intubate patients in order to maintain proper ventilation mechanically, “besides administering high concentrations of oxygen to assist those areas of the lungs that are still functioning properly,” he adds.
According to Argüello, in order to avoid reaching these extremes, it is advisable not only to monitor body temperature with the aid of a thermometer, but oxygen saturation level as well with the aid of a pulse oximeter. Normal readings range between 95 and 100 percent.
“If someone’s below 90%, it’s a warning sign and they should be examined by a health professional, as this symptom may indicate the presence of Covid-19,” explains this specialist.
The pulse oximeter is a small electronic device that is placed on the finger. Its cost ranges from 500 to 1000 Mexican pesos. According to Argüello, it’s a great way to determine whether a patient needs to go to the hospital due to ow oxygen saturation levels.
“Just like a thermometer, the pulse oximeter is a device we should have at home as part of our first aid kit. I recommend always having one nearby,” concludes the expert.