In the times of COVID-19, where the demand for oxygen and beds seems to reach its limit, the best way to keep yourself and your family safe is stay at home. There are several non-serious cases where home isolation is being advised. The doctors suggest keeping track of their symptoms and oxygen saturation (SpO2) by performing breathing exercises, taking prescribed medications, and not panicking. But how can one measure their blood oxygen level staying at home? You can use a pulse oximeter to check your oxygen level, pulse rate, and perfusion index. After figuring out, measuring and tracking these, how can you know if your SpO2 is accurate? For this, one needs to perform a six-minute walk test (6MWT).
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The Objective of a Six Minute Walk Test
Those tested positive on a COVID-19 test or showing symptoms of infection must start their course of treatment from the very first day. It is reasonable to prepare a chart of your oxygen saturation, fever, and episodes of breathlessness. The six minute walk test helps in the early detection of low tissue oxygen (hypoxia). For those under home isolation, pulse oximeters have vast clinical relevance.
According to ALA (American Lung Association), 6MWT can determine respiratory insufficiency (lung capacity) and heart health, as the new mutants tend to attack the lungs.
Preparing for A Six Minute Walk Test
After the purpose of 6MWT is crystal clear, let us have a look at the preparatory guidelines to perform this test:
- Wear comfortable clothing and shoes, suited to the weather.
- There is no restriction in the usage of walking aids or taking medicines before leaving.
- Do not stuff your stomach with a heavy diet. A light meal is an ideal choice.
- Try to avoid exercising before 2 hours of 6MWT.
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Performing The Six Minute Walk Test
The six minute walk test is a simple test with high clinical applicability in preventing fatal COVID-19. It is a life saver to those under home isolation and away from a doctor's supervision.
The three simple steps of 6MWT are:
- After meeting all the guidelines of the test, measure your SpO2 using a pulse oximeter.
- Walk in your room or any isolated open space for 6 minutes.
- Check your oxygen saturation once again and note it down. Repeat the test 2-3 times a day or once every six hours and record all values.
These steps will help you figure out whether you are experiencing happy hypoxia or not. It is a condition where a person does not feel any discomfort despite low oxygen levels.
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Result and Observation of 6MWT
- In a recovering individual, oxygen saturation should not vary by 2-3% or fall below 95%.
- If the oxygen level falls below 93%, consider getting hospitalised or urgent medical care.
Crisis Management @ Home
For those under home isolation, low oxygen levels can be managed (not treated) by breathing exercises and a technique known as pruning. If your SpO2 level falls below 94%, lying down on your belly will drastically help you in the condition until medical care arrives.
In severe cases proning may not provide good results, as such consulting a doctor would be the best thing to do.
Caution- Our experts on The Wellness Corner are strictly against self-medication, so please keep your hands away from steroids and blood thinners.