Dra Aliza: Lung Health at Your Fingertips

The pandemic caused by Covid-19 continues to spread throughout the world. According to the World Health Organization, as of July 30, 2020, 17,408,881 million people had been infected, of which 674,448 (3.9%) had died.

By Dr. Aliza A. Lifshitz

The figures in the United States are especially alarming since there are 4,622,966 million people infected and 154,941 those who have died.

The fact that many of the cases so far are mild is both good and bad. Good because most infections resolve on their own and patients are cured. Bad because, COVID-19 It can be transmitted when patients are asymptomatic (no symptoms) or pre-symptomatic (they have not yet been diagnosed because the symptoms have not appeared). In other words, it can be transmitted when one does not know that he is infected. This makes the infection more difficult to control and the pandemic cannot be controlled.

While it is true that most cases of people infected with Covid-19 do not end in hospitalization, those who do arrive at the hospital frequently do so with dangerously low levels of oxygen, and this exposes them to suffer serious complications or , including death.

A patient who develops symptoms of Covid-19 could seek help earlier using a very simple device: the oximeter (also known as a pulse oximeter, pulse oximeter, or saturometer). It is a clamp-shaped device that is attached to the finger like a thimble and, using a light source, a light detector and a microprocessor, measures arterial oxygen saturation. Some call it the fifth vital sign (the others would be temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and respiratory rate).

The oximeter has become a fundamental tool for Covid-19 patients to measure the level of oxygen in their blood and thus help determine if they have any problems in the lungs.

Most healthy people have an oxygen reading between 95 and 98 percent. Some people with pre-existing conditions may have a lower normal reading. But in cases of Covid-19, people can have even lower oxygen saturation.

According to Dr. Carlos Espinal, Epidemiologist and Public Health Specialist at Florida International University (FIU): “The oximeter helps patients detect when oxygen saturation drops below 90%. And even though the patient does not have pneumonia, that is an indication that something is already happening in the lung.

Affordable and easy to use

An oximeter is a small device that is placed on the finger and in a few seconds lights with numbers come on that indicate the level of oxygen in the body and the heart rate. This device is sold in pharmacies or online, can be easily used by the patient, and is affordable.

Remember that while we do not have a vaccine and effective treatments against Covid-19, the only way to prevent contagion is by avoiding being exposed to the virus. The virus can be spread from person to person by being around an infected person (even if they have no symptoms); through drops that are produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes (or even speaks). For this reason, masks help us to protect ourselves from contracting the virus from other people and from transmitting the virus, if we become infected and do not have symptoms.

Of course, we must not forget about social distancing, correct and frequent hand washing (and in its absence the use of a disinfectant containing at least 60% alcohol); avoiding touching your eyes and face without washing your hands; disinfect frequently touched surfaces and follow CDC recommendations if symptoms appear (avoiding contact with others to avoid contagion).

Remember that the numbers of infected, hospitalized and dead that I mentioned at the beginning represent mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, grandparents, grandmothers, uncles, aunts. Many are doctors, nurses, workers in “essential jobs” who have sacrificed their lives. They are not just numbers.

There is only one way out of this …… together. Take care of yourself and others.

About Dr. Aliza

Aliza A. Lifshitz, known for her extensive experience in the Hispanic media as Dr. Aliza, is the health expert for the educational television network for the Hispanic community HITN. At HITN, she hosts the daily Vida y Salud programming block, a space where she shares information and tools for Hispanics to lead healthier lives and better communicate with their doctors.

Other articles by this author

Dr. Aliza: The danger of #fakenews in the era of coronavirus

Dra Aliza: Your heart is the engine of your life

Dr. Aliza: Don’t let the economy make you sick

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