2023:  Oximeters are an important tool that lets me know my approximate Spo2 (blood oxygen level).   I like to keep my Sp02 between 92% and 96% at rest and when exerting or playing pickleball I prefer not to go below 80%.  I have an oximeter with me most of the time and use it regularly.  If I tried to stay in the often recommended Sp02 of 88% to 92% I would be sitting on the couch instead of staying active.  I need 3 LPM at rest and up to 10 LPM when active.  It is easier to stay active if I am getting the oxygen I need.

2019:  At the beginning of 2018 I had 6+ LPM of ambulatory oxygen available to me.  More if I wanted but it would severely limit the amount of time I could be active. Around this time I began using 3 LPM at rest and didn’t hesitate to turn my home concentrator up to 5 LPM.  At this time I was happy if my Sp02 stayed in the low 90s at rest and when I was exerting or playing tennis I could go to the high 70s to low 80s.  I needed to stop and do pursed lip breathing to bring my blood oxygen level up.  At times I would stop any activity and let my heart rate drop from the high 130s-low 140s to somewhere around 115.  I had an oximeter with me at all times and used it frequently.  It was a struggle to stay active but using the oximeter made it possible.

2015:  Started supplemental oxygen in Sept. 2014.  Bought an Inogen One G3 (with 4 settings) two months later.   In Nov. 2014 I took a walk test, at a slow walk and  it took 3 LPM to keep my Sp02 in the mid-80s.  The G3 could not provide me the equivalent of 3 LPM.   The G3 did not come close to providing the oxygen I needed.  With my home concentrator I could keep my Sp02 in the low 90s while sleeping, at rest and doing light choirs around the house.  Tennis, traveling, shopping, basically doing anything I struggled to get the oxygen I needed.  I either need to sit on the couch or allow my blood oxygen levels to drop into the 70s and 80s for short periods of time.  For four years the struggle to stay active got harder and harder.

2010:  or earlier began using an oximeter to monitor my Sp02 and breathing techniques to keep my blood oxygen levels higher.  It kept me working and out of the hospital.  Sometime after 2010  I went to Silver City, Idaho (about 6,200 ft. elevation) to camp for a night.  I took my Sp02 before I went to bed, and was in the mid to high 70s.  With pursed lip breathing I  could bring it up to the high 80s, but it  would plumet when I was breathing normally.  I was afraid to go to sleep.  Didn’t know if I would wake up.  I woke my daughter and she broke camp up while I sat in the car with the heater on.  On the way home my Sp02 started to climb and by the time I got home (2,200 ft. elevation) my Sp02 was back to normal (low 90s).  The oximeter may have saved my life, or at least a trip to the emergency room. 

I have often heard and read that people with COPD should

keep their blood oxygen level between 88% and 92%.

If I had to keep my Sp02 between 88% and 92% I would not be able to get off the couch!  I had to drop below a Sp02 of 88% before my Dr. would write me a prescription for oxygen.  At that time it did not take much exertion to drop me well below 88% .  A few months after being prescribed supplemental oxygen during a walk (slow walk) test I needed 3 LPM to keep me in the mid-eighties.  Moving around would have taken 5+ LPM to keep me in the high eighties and when I stopped moving may have went above 92%.  A range between 88% to 92% wasn’t workable for me then and still isn’t.  In the real world I don’t believe keeping a Sp02 between 88% and 92% is realistic for anyone.

If I had to keep my Sp02 between 88% and 92% I would not be able to get off the couch!  It would take constant LPM adjustments or severely limit my activity and lower my quality of life.  Constantly monitoring blood oxygen levels and adjusting LPMs  is not a workable solution and lowering my quality of life is not acceptable.

Talk to your Physician about your blood oxygen levels

 and when you should be worried and contact him!

Don’t panic about an oximeter reading that is scary while active!  It could be a bad reading because of cold fingers, tension, poor finger placement, low batteries, etc…  Get another reading and if it is still low use belly breathing (Diaphragmatic breathing) or pursed lip breathing to bring your blood oxygen level up.   If you can’t bring it up it may be time to contact a medical professional.  It is also good to have a second oximeter in case one goes bad. 

All oximeters are not the same.  I picked a model I liked years ago and have stayed with it so I would get consistent readings.  Different brands have different algorithms.  One I had gave me good reading while I was in the 90%+ range but when I dropped below 90% the oximeter would start giving me readings in the low 80s.  A couple others I had would start beeping when I got in the low 90s.  Irritating.  Find one you like and stick with it.

Use the oximeter when at rest, active and exercising to find your normal blood oxygen readings for each.  If blood oxygen levels trend up it shows things are going well.  Keep doing the same.  I blood oxygen levels trend down try to understand why they are down.  You are the only one who lives with your COPD 24-7, the more you know about what helps and what doesn’t you will be better able to take care of yourself.





These are my thoughts and experiences, not medical advice.

Gerald(Skip) Miller

Contact   hors.sens1@gmail.com
Copyright © 2022 Gerald Miller. All Rights Reserved.