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Healing Life and Lungs After Covid – Part 8

Monday, November 27, 2023 5:57 PM

Article from

December 5, 2022 by Betsy Thomason

Photo by Mufid Majnun on

Maintaining Oxygen Saturation Above 89 Percent 

People with Covid-damaged, fibrotic lungs can have difficulty maintaining a normal (95 percent and above) blood oxygen level. In the United States, a saturation below 90 percent usually initiates a prescription for supplemental oxygen therapy via nasal cannula. However, most of the pulmonary fibrosis research about oxygen supplementation is inconclusive in terms of stable improvement of blood oxygen satura­tion, and there are many unknowns about how much supplemental oxygen may be beneficial. As a 2017 report in European Respiratory Re­view showed, there is no evidence that supple­mental oxygen actually reduces breathlessness in populations with fibrotic lung disorders; at best, the researchers concluded, supplemental oxygen might increase exercise capacity. The American Lung Association claims that supplemental oxygen supports organ function in general but provides no evidence for this assertion.

One major benefit of daily exercise is that it may reduce the need for supplemental oxygen. Well-tuned muscles use oxygen more efficiently than weak ones. With regular exercise, your oxygen saturation may stabi­lize and even improve, especially if you are fully concentrating on BOD (BreatheOutDynamic) while exercising. Learn to love every minute you are moving your body and breathing efficiently. Additional benefits include reduction of anxiety, fear, pain and stress and increased energy and confidence.

It is important to remember that supplemental oxygen is a drug. As always, buyer beware. If you choose to use supplemental oxygen in order to maintain your oxygen saturation above 89 percent, there are several considerations to take into account. First, with what frequency will you be supplementing oxygen? For example, will it be twenty-four-seven, only for sleep or only with exercise? You must decide what makes sense to you. Being stressed by another daily routine can sap your strength, spirit, and oxygen saturation. This is why I recommend efficient breathing, which allows you to be attached to your breath without being tethered to an oxygen tank. Talk with your health care provider and agree on a protocol that works for you. More oxygen is not necessarily better.

The second consideration has to do with the oxygen liter flow. Use the least amount that is effective, depending on your activity level. Re­quest a prescription that allows you to determine the oxygen liter flow within a given range—for instance, two to five liters per minute. Again, oxygen is a drug and should be used judiciously. By combining efficient breathing with supplemental oxygen use, you can reduce your need for extra oxygen. A finger pulse oximeter, which instantly reports how well your blood is carrying oxygen, can help reveal this benefit.

At the same time—and this is the third consideration—do not become a slave to that handy-dandy pulse oximeter. It is not necessary to know what your blood oxygen saturation is from minute to minute. What is help­ful is to document your saturation perhaps three times a day, especially before and after exercise, and then adjust the O2 liter flow to maintain a saturation at or above 89 percent. Combine this valuable information with documentation of your emotions and physical comfort, all of which influence oxygen saturation.