Many businesses are screening employees and customers for fever prior to them entering. However many people with SARS-CoV-2 may not elicit a fever, or other typical symptoms such as cough and shortness of breath. Moreover, some could take an antipyretic (fever reducer such as acetaminophen) or an antiinflammatory (such as ibuprofen), thereby lowering temperature readings.
Some with coronavirus infection, including seniors, may have “atypical” symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness or confusion. This could be a sign of hypoxia, or low oxygen states.
A pulse oximeter is an easy, painless way for one can test the oxygen in one’s blood. The person puts their index finger into a handheld monitor and waits a few seconds. Most give a resting heart rate and a percentage of oxygen saturation.
A “normal range” of oxygen saturation falls between 95-100%. A level below this could signify lack of oxygen exchange due to lung pathology.
Those with lung disease, such as emphysema/COPD, may have lower baselines which will need to be established with their medical provider.
Pulse rates should fall between 60-90 beats a minute. A higher pulse could suggest fever and/or lack of oxygenation as well.
Most pulse oximeters cost anywhere between $20-$100 and can be easily cleaned between each use.
Many medical experts suggest those with coronavirus use a pulse oximeter to monitor their oxygen status, as lower numbers could occur in pneumonia or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), signifying severe coronavirus infection.
Due to its simplicity and offering of another metric of health, its use along with thermometers could provide a more accurate screen of those with coronavirus infection.
Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, KDWN, and iHeart Radio.