What causes breathing difficulties in a COVID-19 patient?

The Coronavirus infects many organs of the human body.

Starting in the Nose and Sinuses where it may cause a loss of sense of smell or taste, it travels to the lungs where it causes cough and breathlessness. 

A peculiar thing about the Coronavirus infection is that although the patient's Oxygen levels fall to very low levels, the patient does not experience any discomfort. This makes the situation very dangerous - in the absence of discomfort, patients report late to the hospital. 

Watch the video to further understand why is it important to check oxygen levels in a COVID-19 patient, when and how to check oxygen levels (SPO2) using a Pulse Oximeter.

Pulse Oximeter

Patients who are diagnosed as Covid-19 positive on the basis of the RT-PCR should have their Oxygen levels checked regularly. This is done by a simple device called a pulse Oximeter. It is clipped on to the nail of the finger and gives a reading of Pulse and Oxygen levels in a matter of seconds. The reading is fairly accurate. 

It is possible that you may not get a reading - in this case, check the following:

  • Dirty nails
  • Heavy nail polish
  • A dead or weak battery of the pulse oximeter

Management of COVID-19 symptoms at home

If you have a Covid-19 positive patient in your house/ Apartment block and is showing symptoms, do the following:

- Inform a Doctor/ Nodal Officer

- Arrange for Oxygen- either Oxygen Cylinder or Oxygen Concentrator - available on rent. In case you have issues with your power supply, rely more on the Cylinder because the Concentrator requires a good power supply.

- Check Oxygen levels and if below 90%, take opinion from attending doctor to start Oxygen at home. 

- Lying on the Tummy makes patients feel more comfortable- especially if obese.

In the current situation (especially for the mildly symptomatic patient) where it is difficult to secure a hospital bed, it is advisable to take these steps, for the following reasons :

- Home care (where adequate facilities for self-isolation exist) is always better than institutional care for symptomatic care of a patient

- Patients who reach hospitals are known to pick up other infections and take longer to get better

- It will free up an urgently needed hospital bed for those in better need of it.