Should you be worried?
Our body is a complex system. If we want to function at our best, certain requirements of our body should be satisfied. The most crucial of them all is getting enough oxygen. Every part of our body requires a certain amount of oxygen to perform its daily set of tasks.
The question here is how you can ensure you are getting enough oxygen intake. What are the normal oxygen saturation levels in your blood by age? What is going to happen if your O2 levels are below the benchmark? And how will you know that your oxygen saturation is below optimum? We’re going to cover all these concerns for you individually. Let’s first discuss what oxygen saturation level or SpO2 is.
The oxygen saturation level is the measure of blood O2 level. If you measure the O2 level with blood gas, it’s called PaO2; when it is estimated with an oximeter, it is called SpO2. Both mean the same amount of oxygen saturation in your blood.
An oximeter is a handy fingertip device. It helps in measuring the blood O2 level and heart rate at the convenience of your home. You only need to place your finger inside the oximeter. After a few seconds, the oximeter displays your oxygen saturation level and heart rate. The oxygen saturation level is indicated as SpO2 reading, and the heart rate as PR BPM or Pulse Rate and Beats Per Minute.
What are the blood’s normal oxygen saturation levels (SpO2) by age?
Blood saturation levels can vary from individual to individual and from age to age. People belonging to different age groups can have different oxygen saturation levels. Even a person can have different oxygen saturation levels in childhood and adulthood. Here are the normal SpO2 levels of children, young adults, and senior adults.
Normal SpO2 for Children
Many children need high blood oxygen saturation for normal functioning. The optimum range of blood O2 levels for children is 95% to 100%.
If the child shows O2 levels lower than that, they might require oxygen therapy. Your child might show the symptoms of change in breathing rate, increased heart rate, discoloration of the skin, retractions, sweating and gasping, etc. when they are experiencing low O2 levels. You can monitor their SpO2 status through an oximeter at home.
Normal SpO2 for Adults
Same as children, adults also require higher blood SpO2. So, their normal SpO2 (oxygen saturation) range also falls between 95% and 100%. If the oxygen saturation is between 92% and 94%, it is advised to seek advice from your physician. But if the SpO2 is lower than 92%, your condition is critical, and you need medical assistance immediately.
Normal SpO2 for Elderly
Most senior adults have lower blood O2 levels than younger adults. So, it is normal for them to have a blood oxygen saturation of around 95%. But they need emergency treatment if they show a SpO2 level lower than 92%.
Is there a Standard Oxygen Saturation Level?
After much research, a standard for an optimum O2 saturation level has been set. Although the blood O2 level varies from individual to individual, it is good to know what the normality is.
Many medical studies have concluded that most individuals have a normal O2 saturation level falling between the range of 95% to 100%.
But it is also quite common for O2 levels to fall behind the optimum if the individual has any other health condition. For example, patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) normally have O2 levels between 88% to 92%. Asthma and cardiovascular diseases can also cause low O2 levels.
What is the lowest Oxygen level?
The optimum O2 levels are between 95% and 100%. Everything within this range is acceptable. But you might need to see a doctor if your O2 level is between 90% and 94%. But this level of blood oxygen is not life-threatening.
If your SpO2 level is less than 90%, you might have a pathological problem and require a thorough medical assessment.
However, if your oxygen saturation level drops below 75%, you need emergency medical help immediately. You might also need oxygen therapy. So, if your O2 level is below 90%, it is quite low, and you need to see a doctor.
What are the signs of not getting enough oxygen?
Not getting enough oxygen can be critical for your health and well-being if your body is not getting enough oxygen. In medical terms, low oxygen saturation levels are called hypoxia or hypoxemia. Luckily, your body can tell you if your blood saturation is lower than your normal level. Here are some signs and symptoms indicating you might have low blood O2 levels.
- Fast heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Change in skin color varying from blue to cherry red
- Bluish lips, fingernails, and skin
You should immediately consult a physician if you’re experiencing some or all of the symptoms described above.
Causes of Low Oxygen
There can be many reasons for low blood O2 levels. In most cases, certain underlying medical conditions might contribute to your blood’s low O2 saturation levels. You need to monitor your blood saturation regularly to identify the situation quickly. It can prevent you from suffering from serious emergencies. The medical conditions that may cause low blood O2 saturation include:
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD)
- Lung damage due to any trauma
- Pulmonary edema or fluid in the lungs
- Blood clot in the lungs, otherwise called pulmonary embolism
- Pneumothorax or collapsed lungs
- Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Certain pain medicines, such as narcotics and anesthetics
- Cyanide poisoning
- Sleep apnea
- Being at high altitudes
Many health conditions can cause a low level of O2 in the blood, but it is not necessary that you might have one of the above conditions. The best way to know is to monitor your SpO2 levels and consult your physician immediately.
How to increase Oxygen levels immediately?
No need to panic if you notice your blood O2 level going down for the first time. You can use some ways to naturally and immediately boost the level of O2 in your blood. But take your time visiting your medical consultant. You can use these techniques to assist you with your medication:
If you are a smoker and you are facing low SpO2 levels, it is advised to quit smoking. Research has proven that after you quit smoking, your lungs start to heal, and your blood circulation is likely to improve only after two to three weeks. The shortness of breath also decreases significantly after one to nine months. This improved lung function helps increase O2 intake, improving your blood O2 level.
Breathe in the fresh air.
Open your house’s windows and let the fresh air flow inside. You can also go for a walk out in the park. It can help increase your overall O2 intake and, conversely, help enhance your blood O2 levels.
Practice breathing exercises
Simple breathing exercises can open your airways and increase your O2 saturation level. These breathing techniques may include:
Pursed-lip breathing helps you control shortness of breath and control the pace of your breathing. To use this technique,
Breathe in through your nose slowly for 2 seconds.
Keep your mouth closed while inhaling.
Now exhale while pursing your lips as if you are going to whistle.
Pursed-lip breathing is one of the simplest techniques to help you boost your O2 intake and control shortness of breath.
Deep belly breathing
Deep belly breathing is also a simple technique to relax your body and control shortness of breath. Which in turn increases your blood O2 levels. To practice deep belly breathing;
Comfortably sit or lie down and close your eyes.
Place one of your hands on your abdomen and the other on your chest.
Inhale through your nose for almost 4 seconds and feel your abdomen expand.
Now, hold your breath for 2 seconds.
Now breathe out for 6 seconds very slowly through your mouth.
Repeat the process for 5 to 15 minutes.
You might feel uneasiness the first few times but don’t worry. It is quite common. After you get used to breathing like this, your O2 intake increases, and your SpO2 level goes up.
After trying these, if your blood SpO2 is still low, you should immediately book an appointment with your physician and seek professional assistance.
Heart failure oxygen saturation levels
Heart failure is also one of the causes of low blood O2 saturation. Patients with acute heart failure may have blood O2 levels of 90% to 94%. That’s why they are required to get O2 therapy regularly. Individuals with cardiovascular diseases need to strictly monitor their blood O2 saturation as low O2 levels can worsen their situation.
O2 levels below 95% can severely damage your health. Any SpO2 level below 95% is critical. If the SpO2 levels are 80% to 85%, there is a possibility that your brain is not getting enough O2 and getting damaged. Bluish skin discoloration can occur if the O2 levels fall below 67%. Mucous membranes or cyanosis can also form. It is where you should immediately run to the emergency room.
Can an oximeter detect heart attacks?
Pulse oximeters are used to measure the level of O2 in the blood. It is a small, compact, and lightweight device that can help you estimate your blood SpO2 at the convenience of your home. Some pulse oximeters also show heart rate as a reading when measuring O2 levels. It cannot detect whether you have a heart attack or not. But it can definitely be made aware you beforehand.
If you have consistently low SpO2, it might be possible that you’re at risk of certain health conditions such as heart attack. You should immediately see your doctor.
What is your Oxygen level supposed to be?
The O2 levels of individuals may vary. But O2 levels falling from 95% to 100% are considered normal for children and young adults. For senior adults, the O2 levels should be around 95%.
Individuals with underlying medical conditions might maintain their O2 levels as directed by their physician.