This blog is normally about astrology and tarot, but today I make an exception. In a recent article about SILENT HYPOXIA by Dr. Richard Levitan in the NY Times, the doctor commented on what he learned treating Covid-19 pneumonia at Bellevue Hospital. Specifically, he found that “these patients did not report any sensation of breathing problems, even though their chest X-rays showed diffuse pneumonia and their oxygen was below normal.” Apparently those sick with Covid-19 were suffering from silent hypoxia in which they had severely low levels of oxygen in their blood despite the lack of apparent symptoms. The low oxygen levels were not discovered until the disease had progressed to dangerous levels. Dr. Levitan wrote: “Normal oxygen saturation for most persons at sea level is 94 percent to 100 percent; Covid pneumonia patients I saw had oxygen saturations as low as 50 percent.” The next stage of the illness is often respiratory failure and the need for a ventilator.
The doctor recommended the following: “There is a way we could identify more patients who have Covid pneumonia sooner and treat them more effectively — and it would not require waiting for a coronavirus test at a hospital or doctor’s office. It requires detecting silent hypoxia early through a common medical device that can be purchased without a prescription at most pharmacies: a pulse oximeter.”
Here’s where your smartphone comes in. Many mobile phones have a built-in pulse oximeter. My own phone is a Samsung, and the Samsung Health app has a feature to measure “stress level” which includes heart rate and blood oxygen levels. I have tested my Samsung phone on many occasions over the past year against a commercial pulse oximeter used in a hospital and the results were identical, so it is very accurate. I don’t have an iPhone, but I assume that Apple products probably have a similar feature.
Simply by checking our levels of oxygen daily to make sure they stay in the normal range (above 93%) is a way of tracking whether the virus is silently affecting our lungs. Our smartphones can be a useful tool in keeping us healthy during this crisis.