The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) director Randeep Guleria in a statement released by the Health Ministry on 6th May 2021, stated that oxygen levels of 92% or 93% should not be considered critical by the people as it just sanctions a person to seek medical help,
Mr Guleria further declared that many buy and store oxygen cylinders at home in fear that they might need it later if their oxygen levels drop. Guleria expresses that this is a misuse of oxygen cylinders owing to their demand at present. He states that a person with oxygen levels 94% and above who have enough oxygen in their body does not need a cylinder and does not have to worry about it. However, hoarding oxygen cylinders in panic when they do not require it disposes of someone else who is in serious need of oxygen.
The oxygen-saturation level is the amount of oxygen present in the red blood cells in a body. Maintaining a balanced blood-oxygen saturation is vital for health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared that the standard oxygen level in a person is 94% and above. If it is less than 94%, one must seek immediate care. Oxygen saturation of less than 90% is critical where one must seek medical attention at once. However, for someone suffering from chronic lung disease, the standard oxygen level may vary accordingly.
Typically, a pulse oximeter measures the oxygen saturation level and takes the reading as “SpO2”. If the oxygen level is less than 94%, it can result in shortness of breath, chest pains and headaches since there is not enough oxygen in the body. Since COVID is a disease that primarily affects the functioning of the lung and the inconceivable rise in the virus, the demand for oxygen cylinders all over the nation has elevated exponentially. Most people have resorted to using oxygen cylinders at home due to the lack of hospital beds.
The Ministry of Health on the management of COVID patients has advised that an oxygen concentration of less than 93% must seek medical attention. If it is below 90%, the patient must be kept in the ICU. The Ministry has also announced that all hospital staff must take safety precautions and receive proper training to store and handle oxygen cylinders as they may cause hospital fires.
Guleria has also warned the public against the use of steroids in the early stages of the virus. He announced that mild cases of COVID do not need steroids or CT scans as steroids have a chance of elevating the effects of the virus by dropping the oxygen level and CT scans expose the body to unnecessary radiation. Instead, mild cases of COVID can be treated primarily through oxygen therapy. Experts reveal that one can use an oxygen concentrator incases of mildly reduced oxygen level; where a person may require oxygen of upto 5 litres per minute, they can use an oxygen concentrator to help breathe easier. However, using an oxygen concentrator without any medical guidance can be dangerous.
Chaitanya H. Balakrishnan, COVID co-ordinator at St. John’s Medical Hospital, Bangalore in a recent webinar conducted by the Ministry of Health, stated that oxygen concentrators will only help patients till they receive medical attention. He said that is just a substitute for the time being and could be harmful if used without medical guidance. Furthermore, experts also say that oxygen concentrators may be very helpful for patients experiencing breathing difficulties after recovering from COVID.