We started discussing the proper level of blood oxygenation only on the occasion of the dangers of the coronavirus pandemic. Who among us was previously interested in what is saturation, what is the pulse oximeter used for and what are the blood oxygenation standards? Oxygen is essential for our life and proper functioning, and testing its parameters is one of the steps that paramedics take to check our life activities. So let’s take a closer look at both saturation and how to measure it at home.
Saturation, which is an indicator of the body’s hypoxia
Blood oxygenation is one of the basic measures of our health. Saturation (Latin saturato – saturation of the liquid with gas), i.e. a measure of blood saturation with oxygen, is an important indicator both for paramedics who come to the aid of COVID-19 patients, and for doctors and nurses who care for the health of postoperative patients with insufficiency respiratory tract, after bronchoscopy or pregnant women. Monitoring the blood saturation with oxygen is one of the standard activities to help assess the health of people in hospital.
Due to age, periodic or chronic problems with respiratory failure, asthma, as well as respiratory difficulties related to coronavirus infection, the measurement of saturation is more and more often performed at home. It is possible thanks to the widely available finger pulse oximeters, which measure the oxygenation level quickly, painlessly and precisely.
What is the saturation norm?
The blood oxygenation level appropriate for a healthy person ranges from 95 to 98%. The results above 98% are appropriate only for patients undergoing oxygen therapy in the conditions of hospital treatment. Indications below 95% mean a reduced level of blood oxygen saturation, with the critical values below 70% (immediate life threat). Constant, low saturation is associated with the risk of serious brain damage and death.
Blood oxygenation in an adult should be in the upper ranges, but it is worth noting that the effect on saturation is smoking (slightly lowers its level), as well as atmospheric pressure (staying in high mountains is associated with periodic hypoxia of the body), chronic respiratory diseases and age (in people over 70 years of age the saturation range is 94% -98%).
Symptoms of hypoxia
Low saturation can be manifested by:
- Feeling short of breath
- Impression of the limited ability to draw air
- Unnatural fatigue
- Deteriorated physical performance
- Acceleration of heart rate
If the result of the pulse oximeter measurement is normal, the symptoms listed above may not be related to the level of saturation and should be consulted with a specialist. If the result is not within the healthy values, and the test, repeated and carried out in appropriate conditions and in the right way, shows the same, non-compliant result, we should also consult a doctor. The level of saturation, let us repeat, is one of the basic parameters of our health.
Measurement of saturation with a pulse oximeter
First of all, let’s take a closer look at the described norm. What does a saturation of 96% mean? This level of oxygenation of the body indicates that at the time of testing, 96% of hemoglobin transports oxygen to our cells, enabling us to function normally. Our vital organs can survive only a few minutes without oxygen – we need oxygen for life.
Saturation is measured with a pulse oximeter . This electronic device measures the extent to which hemoglobin is bound to oxygen as a percentage. Saturation is abbreviated as SpO2, and the measurement result looks like: SpO2 97%. In addition to saturation, the oximeter also shows the pulse.
How to use the camera? The pocket pulse oximeter is usually placed on the finger of the hand. In hospitals, larger models are often used, offering additional functions and enabling diagnostics also from the earlobe or tip of the nose. Finger saturation testing is quick and easy. The finger device should be placed over the index or middle finger with the fingernail facing up. It is worth noting here that when preparing for the examination, make sure that the nail plate is clean and not covered with varnish or artificial material (gels, tips). As for the interference in the measurement, apart from the covered nail surface, cold limbs and movement during the reading may have a significant impact on the result of the test.
Did you know that you will also find pulse oximeters in our offer? Check it out!