With an upsurge of Covid-19 cases all over the nation due to the second wave of the highly contagious SARS-CoV 2 virus, there is a huge crisis of hospital beds, oxygen support machines, cylinders, PPE kits, RT-PCR test kits, etc. According to reports, the mutant strains are badly affecting the lungs within 2-3 days of the infection and causing oxygen deprivation and lung infections. The deterioration of the infection is so high that it often leads to the oxygen levels going below 80 and people gasping for breath.

Woman on oxygen support

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Well, with no availability of hospital beds and necessary medical supplies at most hospitals in the recent times, people diagnosed with asymptomatic or mild to a moderate version of Covid-19 are advised to self-isolate and manage the conditions at home. Currently, this has led to patients or their family members having to create a hospital-like setup at home, including bed, essential medical necessities and oxygen cylinder or concentrators to provide a prompt medical response at times of need. Although, an online consultation with a doctor might help you with the medicines to take on time or the right diet to follow, you also need to be aware of the risks and dangers of using oxygen therapy and how to operate an oxygen cylinder at home.

Well, worry not, we got your back. We bring you some tips, dos, and don’ts while taking oxygen therapy at home:

A Guide On Home-Based Oxygenation

When To Use Medical Oxygen Or Concentrator?

In a healthy person, the ideal oxygen levels should be between 94-99%. So, oxygenation should be preferred after doctor consultation, only when blood oxygen levels or (SpO2) readings in the pulse oximeter drop below 90%. But it must also be kept in mind that all Covid positive patients do not require external oxygen supply and you need not require achieving 100% saturation since it will exhaust your resources quicker and there might not be the availability of more when really required.

How Much Oxygen Saturation Is Correctly Required By A Patient?

According to Dr Randeep Guleria, Chief, AIIMS New Delhi, a Covid positive patient with an oxygen saturation of above 95, need not take any external medical oxygen. Additionally, those with no other symptoms and an oxygen saturation of 92 or 94, also need not require more medical oxygen just to keep up the saturation. A SpO2 reading of 94 or less requires close monitoring and one may still not need oxygen because oxygen levels are still sufficient in the blood if the patient is healthy.

In the case of people suffering from chronic respiratory conditions, seek advice from the treating doctor if the oxygen levels dip, to know how much oxygen you might require per minute i.e., how long a cylinder would last and when it is required to be refilled. In case there is the unavailability of oxygen cylinders or concentrators, you can even opt for portable oxygen cans but ensure you consult a doctor before using them.

Oxygen cylinders

How To Use Oxygen Mask And Nasal Canula?

With bare minimum knowledge about home oxygenation at the beginning, many people panic while trying to use the oxygen mask and nasal cannula properly.

Just like a face mask, it's crucial to ensure that the mask fits your face properly, and there is no leakage or gap in and around the nose, mouth or cheeks. Try using a properly sized oxygen mask and make sure that the nose clip and tightening straps gives you a snug fit for uninterrupted oxygen supply. Since the resources are limited now, and most of these cannulas, concentrator machines are being borrowed for use, caregivers, and patients should ensure that the equipment being used are well-sanitized beforehand.

If you are using an oxygen concentrator then, ensure that there's plenty of open windows and ventilation in the patient’s room to allow nitrogen to escape.

How To Monitor The Readings?

Well, even if you are on external oxygen therapy, it is extremely important to keep a track of your oxygen and pulse readings to understand how well your body is coping with the disease and whether or not the external oxygen is helping.

Use a pulse oximeter to record the readings every 2 hours and if there are continuous fluctuations in the oxygen levels and the external oxygen supply show no improvement, then the patient might require hospitalization and intensive care.

Also Read: Pulse Oximeter: Benefits, Readings And How It Works

How To Naturally Boost Oxygen Levels At Home?

There is no denying that certain exercises and yoga do help a person improve oxygen levels naturally but you need to consult a doctor to understand which poses actually help. According to the Union Health Ministry, a breathing exercise or posture known as ‘Proning’ (i.e., COVID patient should lie on their chest and have pillows placed under their neck, shins, and chest) is highly beneficial for covid positive patients with compromised breathing comfort as it improves blood oxygen levels and also actively prevents deterioration of the condition to severe respiratory distress. Try performing yogasanas like Anulom-Vilom, Pranayama and simply walk in the room at intervals to elevate breathing function.

Also Read: Proning: What Is It And How It Helps COVID-19 Patients Breathe Easy

Additionally, incorporating a nutritious and iron-rich diet could also help you in treating your lung infection. Even lying on the stomach while sleeping reduces respiratory problems.

What Are The Critical Signs That Require Hospitalization?

Even though one might have proper medical facilities at home, it is important to keep a track of the oxygen levels and lookout for any signs of danger. Immediate intensive care and hospitalization are required in case you notice any of the following critical symptoms:

  • Patient being unconscious
  • Lips, face or tongue turning darkish-blue or getting discoloured
  • Extreme discomfort while breathing
  • A sudden dip in oxygen levels below 90
  • Severe chest pain
  • Degradation of other vital signs