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Are Oximeters safe for BIPOC/BAME/Black people to use for COVID at home?

Many people are buying Pulse Oximeters to keep at home in case they get sick with COVID-19. This is so they can take regular blood oxygen readings [also called SATS, SPO2] to monitor if they start dropping if they drop then it can be time [in England] to phone 111 or 999 for medical advice over the phone.


However, at the same time, it's been pointed out that Pulse Oximeters can be less accurate on non-Whites, badly in-accurate sometimes, and this can lead to harm.


I have seen on Twitter some people asking what the best thing to do is. DigitalHealthCoachUK is *not a doctor* and *cannot offer medical advice*, however, here are some practical suggestions.

  1. Don't let this put you off buying and trying out a pulse-oximeter, they seem to work OK for most some BIPOC/BAME/Black people [up to 80%], but not others.

  2. The important part is to try it out and establish *what's normal for you* and the rest of the family before you get ill.

  3. If the readings seem random and don't make sense at this practice stage, a pulse-oximeter may not be helpful for you at the moment

  4. Doctors who deal with you over the phone will want to understand how much your blood oxygen reading has dropped from *what's normal for you*, they will also ask how you feel and check for other signs of problems, such as your breathing rate, changes in your lip and eye colour

  5. My best advice at this stage [when dealing with a Doctor over the phone who can't see] you, is: MAKE SURE THEY KNOW YOU'RE NOT WHITE

  6. Once they know you are not white they should adjust how they assess the different symptoms and they should ask you to look for slightly different questions about colour changes around your mouth and eyes, for example.

  7. This text is from the publication of American Nurse:

  8. "Cyanosis in coloured people: Cyanosis is a sign that your blood doesn’t have enough oxygen. It’s typically identified as a bluish color around the lips, nail beds, or the eyes. However, in people with darker skin, cyanosis may look gray or whitish, while the areas around the eyes can appear gray or bluish". [Link]

  9. If you don't feel that these issues are being taken into account, for your own safety, you're going to have to insist.

If you would like more advice on oximeters, how they work and where to buy them [UK], please visit: https://www.digitalhealthcoachuk.net/pulse-oximeters


For health professionals : this article gives a history to the issue and has an in-depth discussion on the controversy and possible next steps: https://emcrit.org/pulmcrit/racism-oximetry/






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