Doctor Randeep Guleria, the Director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi said on Thursday that “oxygen saturation levels of 92 or 93 in Covid-19 patients should not be considered critical, but this is a buffer level which indicates that the patient needs medical help on time.” This statement by the AIIMS Director comes amidst the backdrop of a nationwide shortage of medical oxygen and its mounting demand amongst coronavirus sufferers.
Dr. Guleria stressed the need to preserve oxygen supply in a statement released by the Union Health Ministry, “Misuse of oxygen cylinders is a serious matter of concern these days. A few people stock oxygen cylinders at home, fearing that they may need it later. This is not advisable. If your oxygen saturation level is 94 per cent or above, it still means there is sufficient oxygen in the body. There is no need to panic.
Misusing the same by a person with normal levels of oxygen can deprive someone whose saturation level is well below 90 or 80.” His statement went on to read, “Previously when we used to do prolonged oxygen therapy for people with lung diseases, we have seen people doing fine in oxygen saturation of even 88 per cent. Oxygen saturation of 92 or 93 should not be considered critical. But this is a buffer level when you can seek medical help without panicking.”
“Oxygen is crucial for the treatment of patients with severe Covid-19 since the disease affects lung functioning. Shortness of breath or difficulty of breathing is one of the most common symptoms in patients with severe Covid-19. It also hampers the supply of oxygen to various parts of the body. They hence need oxygen therapy, to be supplied through medical oxygen,” further elaborated Dr. Guleria. Going by World Health Organisation (WHO) data, oxygen saturation level below 94% calls for the patient to be given immediate medical assistance. Furthermore, according to the WHO, “a saturation level of lower than 90% is considered as a clinical emergency.”
The latest clinical suggestions by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare pertaining to the management of adult Coronavirus sufferers highlight that oxygen concentration of 93% or below requires hospital admission. Anything below 90% is classified as a severe disease, requiring admission in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Dr. Guleria is of the opinion that people are stocking up on medical oxygen, compounding its shortage. “One common example of oxygen wastage is when patients are given food, they take the oxygen mask off and keep it at the side without switching off the connection.”
Medical experts have people about the use of oxygen concentrator without professional guidance as it can prove to be detrimental and that it should only be used in moderate cases of Coronavirus where a patients oxygen requirement is a maximum of five liters per minute. While addressing an AIIMS webinar on oxygen therapy for Coronavirus treatment, Professor and Head of Department Anaesthesia, B J Medical College, Pune, Sanyogita Naik said, “Oxygen concentrators are also very useful for patients experiencing post-Covid-19 complications which necessitate oxygen therapy.”
The health ministry addressed the need to preserve oxygen supply, “There are also additional requirements and rules for medical oxygen, including requiring a person to have a prescription to order medical oxygen. It is important for citizens to ensure judicious use of the vital product, especially during a public health emergency. Misuse or overstocking of these will only lead to panic and black marketing.”