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Virtual wards: caring for COVID-19 patients at home could save lives

Do you own an oximeter? If so, do you know how and when to use it? It could save your life.

COVID-19 has killed at least 60,000 people in the UK. Many who die have a sudden drop in their blood oxygen levels a day or two before their lungs fail. Unlike in many other chest diseases (asthma, for example), COVID-19 can cause a severe drop in blood oxygen level without any associated breathlessness.

Because of this, people with this “silent hypoxia” are unlikely to seek the urgent help they need, unless they regularly measure their blood oxygen level or their condition deteriorates. If they realise something is wrong, they may reach hospital just in time to receive oxygen therapy (and, if necessary, ventilation). Others are admitted too late to save – or die at home.

The blood oxygen level is one of the strongest predictors of death in COVID-19, and early oxygen improves survival. So it’s time to learn to measure yours and to know what to do if it’s low.

Read the full article on The Conversation website, co-written by Professor Trish Greenhalgh (Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences)

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