Our nation is in the midst of the second wave of coronavirus and it’s a common feeling that the frontline medical workers are burdened with the overflowing cases which have gotten out of hand. We are either short of medicines, or oxygen cylinders. The COVID-19 virus affects the patient’s lungs and the steady flow of oxygen from the lungs to other organs. Low oxygen can cause weakness, exhaustion, and confusion, and eventually organ failure.
The country has seen quite a lot of fatalities because of the scarcity of these medical resources, and it is our duty to educate ourselves about them. Let’s find out.
Oxygen therapy uses an external source, such as cylinders or concentrators to supply oxygen to the patient and artificially enhance their oxygen levels. This can help patients with moderate and severe COVID-19 get better.
Oxygen levels are measure by oxygen saturation (SpO2), or the amount of oxygen-carrying hemoglobin in the blood. Healthy individuals have a SpO2 level between 95-100%. A patient would need oxygen therapy when they start feeling breathless or their pulse oximeter shows SpO2 levels under 95%. For these oxygen cylinders and concentrators are commonly used.
These are metal tanks containing a fixed amount of pressurized oxygen. They need to be replaced often because they may take 40-50 liters of oxygen per minute, and go on for 2-14 hours depending on their size and usage.
Whereas oxygen concentrators take in room air and filter it to produce 90-95% pure oxygen. There’s an unlimited supply of oxygen and it’s a high one-time cost. It can also give 2-10 liters of oxygen per minute which is suitable for people with moderate cases of COVID-19.
This machine pumps air, usually with extra oxygen into patients’ airways when they are not able to breathe on their own. If lung function is impaired it can help COVID-19 patients with breathing.
As of now, India has the capacity to produce 7,000 metric tonnes of medical oxygen. The capacity cannot be immediately increased and it takes around 2 years to set up a new oxygen manufacturing plant. India is also struggling to quickly transport oxygen to patients especially to smaller hospitals and remote locations.
What can you do to help?
You can stay home and safe to reduce any need for oxygen therapy. You can also donate to organizations that are working directly on the ground to generate, source or distribute the supply of oxygen.
Meanwhile, don’t forget to double mask and stay indoors.