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Jakarta Post

No need to panic buy oximeters to detect 'happy hypoxia', lung specialist says

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, September 16, 2020   /   08:49 pm
No need to panic buy oximeters to detect 'happy hypoxia', lung specialist says Persahabatan Hospital lung specialist Erlina Burhan speaks at a press conference held by the National COVID-19 Task Force on March 30. (Courtesy of BNPB/--)

There is no need for the public to start panic buying pulse oximeters to detect “happy hypoxia”, Persahabatan Hospital lung specialist Erlina Burhan said on Wednesday.

Public concerns over an unusual effect of COVID-19 called happy hypoxia – in which patients have dangerously low blood oxygen levels yet show no usual symptoms of the disease – have risen due after it was reported that two patients who died from COVID-19 in Banyumas, Central Java, experienced the symptom.

Lung specialist Erlina Burhan said that happy hypoxia, also known as silent hypoxemia, could be checked by examining blood gases analysis through pulse oximeters.

“We can check our blood saturation level at home by putting our finger inside the oximeter pulse, ” Erlina said in a talk show hosted by the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) on Wednesday.

However, Erlina also reminded the public that not every COVID-19 patient would experience happy hypoxia. 

“This doesn’t mean that people should buy pulse oximeters the way people were panic buying face masks,” she said. “Pulse oximeters are not necessary for healthy people or asymptomatic cases.”

She said that those who experienced happy hypoxia usually suffered from worsening coughs and feelings of fatigue.

She explained that people whose blood oxygen levels dropped would usually suffer from difficulty breathing.

“However, this doesn’t happen to some COVID-19 patients [who experience happy hypoxia] because of nerve damage, which results in their brain failing to recognize the lack of oxygen,” Erlina said. (dpk)