New Delhi: As the second COVID-19 wave has wreaked havoc in the country, leaving many gasping for breadth, oxygen concentrators are in high demand.

The novel coronavirus is basically a respiratory disease that impacts our lungs and in severe cases can cause oxygen levels to drop to dangerously low levels, making the disease fatal for the patient.

A person’s oxygen level is measured by oxygen saturation, known briefly as SpO2. “This is a measure of the amount of oxygen-carrying haemoglobin in the blood. A healthy individual with normal lungs, will have an arterial oxygen saturation of 95% – 100%,” says Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

According to the latest guidelines for COVID-19 patients, issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, an oxygen concentration less than or equal to 93 percent would require hospital admission. And if the oxygen levels drop below 90 percent, it is classified as a severe disease, requiring admission in ICU.

Patients with acute drop in oxygen levels require Oxygen therapy or supplemental oxygen for medical treatment.  Liquid oxygen and oxygen concentrators among other tools are used to give supplemental oxygen to COVID patients.

While there is a shortage of liquid oxygen for treating COVID patients, many people are turning to oxygen concentrators for oxygen therapy as the oxygen tanks need to be refilled but an oxygen concentrator can work 24 x 7.

How do Oxygen Concentrators work?

Atmospheric air has roughly 78 percent nitrogen and 21 percent oxygen, so an oxygen concentrator takes in ambient air and increases the oxygen concentration, by filtering out and throwing away nitrogen.

When should you use an Oxygen Concentrator?

“Oxygen concentrators can be used only in moderate cases of COVID-19, when the patient experiences drop in oxygen levels, where the oxygen requirement is a maximum of 5 litres per minute,” shares Professor and Head of Department Anaesthesia, B. J. Medical College, Pune, Prof. Sanyogita Naik to the Press Information Bureau (PIB).

The doctor also shared that the oxygen concentrators are also very useful for patients experiencing post-COVID complications which necessitate oxygen therapy.

Can we use Oxygen Concentrators on our own?

No, we cannot.  “Patients with moderate pneumonia induced by COVID-19 – with oxygen saturation less than 94 – can benefit from supplemental oxygen given through oxygen concentrator, but only till they get hospital admission. However, patients using it themselves without suitable medical advice can be harmful,” shares  Dr Chaitanya H. Balakrishnan, Covid Co-ordinator, St. John’s Medical College Hospital, Bangalore to PIB.

“So, till you get a bed, oxygen concentrator can be beneficial, but definitely not without guidance from chest physician or internal medicine specialist. It also depends on patients’ pre-existing lung conditions,” he further added.

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