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Explainer: what is oxygen therapy and why it is vital in the fight against Covid-19

Apr 22, 2021 02:03 IST | By Editorji News Desk

Desperate cries for help on social media as demand for oxygen keeps increasing with more and more people contracting the Covid-19. Few good Samaritans are coming together to help

The PM assured that all steps are being taken to ensure that demand for oxygen is met. But the situation on the ground is desperate with state govts sending SOS after SOS as hospitals run out of oxygen.

Also Read | This simple sleep position can boost Oxygen level in Covid patients

Why is the country facing an oxygen shortage while trying to fight the second Covid wave? Are more patients reporting low oxygen levels than in the first phase?

According to the National Clinical Registry for Covid-19 shortness of breath is the most common symptom among hospitalised patients at 47.5%, compared to 41.7% during the first wave.

Members of the national Covid-19 task force have said that data shows that 54.5% of hospital admissions during the second wave required supplemental oxygen. A 13.4% increase from compared to September-November last year.

Also Read | Explained: should gap between Covid-19 doses be increased?

Shortness of breath and low oxygen levels are caused because of the way in which coronavirus affects our lungs and respiratory tract. The virus infects the epithelial cells in the lungs whose function is to protect the tract from pathogens. The body’s immune response to fight the infection in the lung leads to inflammation and it negatively impacts oxygen flow. Fluids also build up in the lungs due to the infection and both these factors make it difficult to breathe.

Although low oxygen levels don’t always manifest as difficulty in breathing, it’s called silent hypoxia. Oxygen levels dip below normal but there are no visible symptoms.

Also Read | India's Covid-19 second wave peak may be reached in mid-May: CEA Subramanian

Hence, one of most important factors monitored in a Covid-19 patient are SPO2 or oxygen saturation level in blood. The oxygen level should not go below 94% but even at that level doctors say a patient does not require to take oxygen, the body oxygen should suffice.

In moderate cases, of shortness of breath and low SPO2 levels between 90-94%, oxygen is given through nasal prongs, masks or masks with reservoir bags. The aim is to bring saturation to 92%-96%.

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In severe cases when patients are diagnosed with severe pneumonia, acute respiratory dist`ress syndrome and sepsis, the recommended oxygen therapy is 5 litres/min and depending on the condition of the patient the protocol states that high-flow nasal cannula oxygen therapy or non-invasive ven`tilation can be considered.

Anyone whose saturation levels are above normal, at 94% or just below 94% does not need to take oxygen.

End VO: While efforts are on to ramp up the Oxygen supplies, the old adage rings true yet again; prevention is better than cure.

Also Read | India's Covid-19 peak likely between May 11-15: report

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