Don’t wait: if your chest is sore and you’re breathless, seek help.
One of SA’s top Covid-19 experts has advised South Africans to “seek help immediately” if they feel chest pains and shortness of breath. “The main symptoms of low oxygen are hurting and difficulty with breathing,” explains Professor Shabir Madhi, who is on the Covid-19 advisory council to the department of health and is head of the vaccine trials within the country.
He adds that “dizziness” follows as one fails to induce enough oxygen to the brain. He said people should “seek assistance immediately” if they’re experiencing “chest pains, shortness of breath, light-headedness or confusion”, as these are all “tell-tale signs that your oxygen levels aren’t adequate”.
Rapid breathing is additionally an indication. “If you’re taking over 20 breaths per minute, then you wish to receive oxygen,” he said. He said it’s “difficult to quantify” if many South Africans are failing to hunt help after they should, but suspected that “some are delaying seeking care because they’re too petrified of what might happen”. Across the world, between 12% to 14% of these who are hospitalised lose their lives and, says Prof Madhi, “South Africa is within the same ballpark figures of what has been observed in other countries”.
Apart from monitoring these symptoms, in our own way to test oxygen levels is with a pulse oximeter, but these don’t seem to be readily available to the general public in African country.
“A pulse oximeter is nice to possess but they don’t seem to be readily available,” said Madhi.
“It’s a medical device so only a few pharmacists will have it. But, the symptoms on their own will tell you if you need oxygen.” It’s a tiny low device that clips onto your finger and measures your oxygen saturation levels, and outdoors of hospitals, one is presumably to determine them in an ambulance or a institution. You need to “make sure your hands are warm” while using one, says Madhi.
Nail polish can even interfere with the readings, therefore the device should be used with none. “Your saturation should be above 95. If it’s under 93 you would like to get oxygen.”
While the general public may additionally try to measure their own oxygen with smartphone apps or fitness trackers, a British GP, Ann Robinson told The Guardian, “There is not any evidence to mention that smartphone apps or fitness trackers are accurate enough for this purpose.” In a small percentage of Covid-19 cases, someone can suffer from what’s referred to as silent hypoxia — where there’s no way of knowing that oxygen levels have dropped to very dangerous levels.
This was first reported in Chinese studies but there was no indication of how commonly this happens. Cases then showed up in Europe and also the UK. A letter to the British Journal of Anaesthesia suggests that silent hypoxaemia could result from one’s oxygen and carbonic acid gas being low, because if only your oxygen is low, it’s high blood greenhouse gas that typically causes breathlessness.
The WHO advises that if you have got minor symptoms, like only a small cough or a gentle fever, “there is mostly no have to seek medical care”. It advises such people to remain reception, monitor their symptoms, and follow national guidance on self-isolation.
The WHO advises that folks get medical attention immediately if they need any breathing difficulties or pain or pressure within the chest.