Oxygen kits to help you self-treat your breathing ailment at home or work

Topics Coronavirus | Oxygen | Lockdown

An authority no less than the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends oxygen therapy for adults with impaired breathing. The advice has acquired greater significance with the rapid spread of Covid-19, a disease characterised by severe, and in some cases, life-threatening breathlessness brought on by depleting levels of oxygen in the blood stream. Signs that you aren't getting enough oxygen range from rapid breathing, shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, coughing or wheezing, sweating and even changes in skin colour.

What exactly is oxygen therapy? According to Harish Chafle, Consultant Intensivist and Chest Physician, Global Hospital, Mumbai, “The therapy involves giving supplemental oxygen to a patient whose O2 concentration in the blood is below normal.” The vital element is delivered via nasal prongs or face mask, with the help of an oxygen concentrator or cylinder, while a pulse oximeter is used to monitor levels in the body.

When to use O2 therapy 

If you have difficulty breathing and oxygen saturation falls below 90 per cent, its time to resort to external medical aid. Says Chafle, “The right way to take it initially is through nasal prongs. If the need for oxygen increases, then a face mask should be used.”

When a patient develops laboured breathing despite oxygen supplementation, the care is typically turned over to the hospital specialist. A non-rebreather mask looks similar to an oxygen mask, as it covers the face in more ore less the same manner and is not connected to a ventilator. The difference is that the mask is attached to a plastic reservoir filled with highly concentrated oxygen. It has a one-way valve, preventing the patient from breathing in the air he has exhaled, which is high in carbon dioxide. Typically these devices are used in emergency situations where patients are not able to maintain blood oxygen levels. They are not used at home, and are not meant for long-term use. They are a temporary arrangement for a patient who will soon require a mechanical ventilator.

However if the respiratory distress is sudden, it is wiser to report to a government hospital and one should never attempt treating oneself at home. According to Bharti Wadhwa, Professor of Anaesthesiology, Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital (LNJP), “As soon as one gets symptoms of Covid-19, the patient needs to report to the authorised government hospital and get himself treated there. Most patients tend to die of lung or heart failure, and especially kidney failure. We call this Multiple Organ Dysfunction Syndrome (MODS). One cannot take a chance and must immediately report it to an authorised Covid hospital.”

Where it is effective, where it isn't 

The demand for oxygen Concentrators and oxygen kits has been spiralling in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, even though such patients require a different line of treatment. Healthcare experts say that for Covid patients, the procedure is very well defined by the Government and one has to report to a hospital. But in general, regular patients of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), asthma, lung disease, and sleep apnea go for these Oxygen kits. You can either buy branded devices such as Respironics (Philips), Nidek, Devilbiss or even take them on hire at affordable prices ranging from Rs 3,000 to Rs 20,000.

A booming market

There is increase in respiratory problems each year during March and April. This year, of course, you have the added problem of home quarantine and regular COPD patients who are fuelling demand for these devices. According to Vaibhav Tewari, COO, Portea Medical, “Our patients have increased significantly both this month and the last. Many of them have respiratory distress because of the change of season, and higher levels of dust and pollination. So they need oxygen concentrators apart from other medical equipment. Our growth has been upwards of 40 per cent between February and March and we are witnessing similar growth this month as well.” He clarifies that the section of people going for concentrators are not all Covid-19 patients.

What is the right oxygen saturation?

You can also use an Oximeter to determine whether you need supplemental oxygen. The pulse oximeter is a small, clip-like device that attaches to a body part, most commonly the index finger. It is a non-invasive, painless test that measures your oxygen saturation level, or the oxygen levels in your blood. An oxygen saturation level of 95 per cent is considered normal for most healthy individuals but 89 per cent is the bare minimum – which means at least 89 per cent of your blood should be carrying oxygen. This is the saturation level needed to keep your cells and your body  healthy. 

The other way to measure blood oxygen is through a blood test. “The blood test is a bit tough and has to be done at the hospital,” says Ravi Meattle, a Delhi-based COPD patient. “It isn't painful but difficult as it is done on the arteries, not the veins. It tells you how much carbon dioxide and oxygen your blood has.” Meattle, who invested in a composite set consisting of an oxygen concentrator, cylinder and pulse oximeter four years ago, says it’s important to get high quality equipment. His oxygen concentrator is worth Rs 2.5 lakh and he recently bought a battery worth Rs 25,000 which tends to increase the concentrator's shelf life. But one tip he shares is to “buy from a brand that has a repair centre in the vicinity.” He generally carries his oxygen kit whenever he travels. Keeping all this at home has stood him in good stead especially in times of the lockdown. He says, “Last week my oxygen level went down to 84 but I did not want to expose myself to infections in the hospital. My equipment at home came in handy.”

Currently, manufacturers regard the spike in buying of oxygen kits as more of precautionary than preventive buying.  Says Portea’s Tewari: “There are two segments in healthcare – one is Primary care and the other is preventive care. So far, there was a demand only in the former category. Although its early days, the preventive health care segment seems poised for significant growth.” 

 
People have not been very regular with their health check-up thus far, but the Covid-19 pandemic has made them far more conscious about preventive healthcare. If one has a chronic respiratory illness or the levels of oxygen generally remain lower than normal, patients realise that they must keep oxygen kits as back-up at home and a pulse oximeter to measure the O2 levels. 

Top selling oxygen products
Product Price (Rs)
PORTABLE OXYGEN CONCENTRATOR SIMPLYGO MINI 113604 PHILIPS 
2,08,656
PORTABLE OXYGEN CONCENTRATOR SIMPLYGO 1069058 PHILIPS 
1,96,811
OXYGEN CONCENTRATOR 10 LPM KS 1025 DEVILBISS  88,346
OXYGEN CONCENTRATOR STATIONARY 5LPM EVERFLO 1020001 PHILIPS  51,050
OXYGEN CONCENTRATOR 5LPM KS 525 DEVILBISS 
45,084
OXYGEN CONCENTRATOR 5LPM KS 525-LITE DEVILBISS  38,653
PULSE OXIMETER FINGERTIP 22P EZLIFE  1,344
PULSE OXIMETER FINGERTIP CHOICEMED 
1,832
PULSE OXIMETER FINGERTIP CONTEC  1,272
PULSE OXIMETER FINGERTIP FTP 10 SCURE  1,624
PULSE OXIMETER FINGERTIP HBO 2000 DEVILBISS  1,674
PULSE OXIMETER FINGERTIP CMS 50D/CMS 50QB CONTEC 1,680  
Oxygen equipment on rent
Product Monthly 
Rental (Rs)
Portable Oxygen Concentrator (Philips SimplyGo)  18,000
Oxygen Concentrator-9 & 10 LPM  8,000
Oxygen Concentrator 5 LPM  5,000
OC 5LPM + Oxygen Cylinder 10Ltr  8,000
Oxygen Cylinder-10 LPM  4,500
Source: Portea Medical



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