Your pulse oximeter measures the percentage of oxygen in your blood, and the usual range lies between 95-100%. The number tells you how much oxygen your body is getting at any given time, and since your body needs this to function correctly, it's essential to keep tabs on your pulse ox readings to make sure everything is working as it should be.
Read on to learn more about what blood oxygen levels mean and how to get them checked as often as necessary to ensure your health.
How Are Blood Oxygen Levels Measured?
There are two primary methods used to measure blood oxygen levels:
(1) arterial blood, and
(2) venous blood.
Arterial blood samples are the most accurate but can only be drawn from an artery and are less common. Venous blood is usually drawn from a vein near your elbow; however, you can also take a sample of arterial blood directly by inserting a needle into an artery in your wrist or neck. Several other less common techniques include measuring carbon dioxide levels directly through sensors placed on your earlobe or fingertip.
How Do I Know If My Blood Oxygen Levels Are Too Low?
The blood oxygen level (also known as the partial pressure of oxygen) measures how much oxygen is in your blood. This measurement is used to gauge whether or not you have enough oxygen entering your bloodstream. Having too little can lead to life-threatening conditions such as hypoxia and anoxia if you have too little.
A lack of airflow or breathing may cause your heart rate and respiratory system to increase rapidly as your body works harder to try and get more oxygen into your bloodstream through breathing.
If you're not feeling well, it can be difficult to tell whether or not your blood oxygen levels are low. Fortunately, if you're struggling with symptoms like fatigue, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and headaches, there are some easy tests that your doctor can perform. While these tests require a full-body blood test (so they aren't as convenient as possible), they can help you know if your levels are low.
If you have any concerns about your blood oxygen levels—or think you might be experiencing symptoms related to low oxygen—talk with your doctor about getting tested for hypoxia.
How Do I Treat Low Blood Oxygen Levels?
Low blood oxygen levels, or hypoxia, can be life-threatening. If you suspect someone has low blood oxygen levels, it's essential to get medical attention as soon as possible. However, if you cannot see a doctor immediately, there are some things you can do at home that might improve blood oxygen levels until medical help arrives. These include:
· Elevate their feet above heart level (if they are lying down)
· Keep them warm and comfortable
· Encourage them to breathe slowly and deeply
· Give them an extra supply of air (if they have trouble breathing) by using a special mask called an Ambu bag.
If they don't respond within 10 minutes, call medical helplines. The sooner you seek medical help for someone with low blood oxygen levels, the better their chances of recovery will be.
How Do These Treatments Affect My Daily Life?
Most treatments for low blood oxygen levels don't require much more than some lifestyle changes. Wearing a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask while you sleep, for example, is as easy as putting on a helmet before heading out on your bike. The cover has built-in straps that fit around your head and contours to your face, so you get comfortable support while you rest.
It uses a steady stream of air—usually set at a consistent level—to push open your airways so you can breathe easily while asleep. And because oxygen works better when it comes from living instead of other sources like pills or gels, wearing a CPAP mask while you sleep is one of the best ways to improve your blood oxygen levels naturally and safely.
What Should I Know About Breathing Training?
Hyperventilation causes dizziness, tingling sensations, and an inability to focus. Your heart races, and muscles get tight as your body prepares for fight or flight. This is why breathing training helps address symptoms of stress, anxiety, and even panic attacks. Breathing techniques can help you relax to calm down when anxious thoughts pop into your head.
A breath practice that has been found helpful for lowering anxiety is 4-7-8:
- Inhale for four seconds.
- Hold your breath for seven seconds.
- Exhale slowly for over eight seconds.
Try doing it before every stressful situation once you've practiced enough to do it without thinking about it too much.
For example, take a few minutes before a job interview to breathe deeply. Or, if you know that you tend to feel stressed out while driving on traffic-filled roads, try taking several deep breaths while stuck in traffic—it will make things seem less tense!
If your hyperventilation symptoms are severe, talk with your doctor first; they may recommend seeking professional help from a therapist who specializes in breathing exercises. If you find yourself hyperventilating often and not getting any relief from slow breathing exercises, consult with your doctor right away.
A final note
So there you have it, everything you wanted to know about blood oxygen levels but didn't know who or where to ask. Hopefully, our explanation gives you an insight into how meaningful your blood oxygen levels are and how they should be monitored. We understand that none of us particularly enjoy visiting our doctors. While you may have ignored some of their requests in order not to feel uncomfortable, if you don't keep a regular check on your blood oxygen levels, you may discover it too late that something is wrong.