Hypoxemia: Low Blood Oxygen

March 14, 2020
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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Serious medical diagnoses always come with a long list of worries — what do all the medical terms mean? What caused the illness in the first place? What will this affect your life? Is there anything you can do to make things better? Such is the case when patients first hear of the term hypoxemia. Other than it meaning having low blood oxygen, what are the consequences? And, what can you expect from treatment?

What is hypoxemia?

Hypoxemia refers to low blood oxygen. Having an adequate amount of oxygen coursing through your arteries is necessary for the brain, heart, lungs, and other major organs to function properly. Having hypoxemia could result in extensive organ and tissue damage within minutes.

During a hypoxemia attack, airways will narrow — making it difficult for the person to get enough oxygen into their lungs. To make matters worse, coughing requires additional oxygen and may aggravate symptoms.

Causes of Hypoxemia

The condition can be caused by several underlying health conditions. The most common include:

Symptoms of Hypoxemia

Symptoms of hypoxemia vary from one person to the next. However, common signs include some of the following:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Fast heart rate
  • Confusion
  • Sweating
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Skin changing color to bluish or extremely red
  • Suddenly waking up from sleep with a choking sensation
  • Inability to communicate
  • Drooling — especially in children

If you or someone you love is experiencing these symptoms, call 911 immediately. Failure to do so may result in the person going into a coma — or even death.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Hypoxemia

Hypoxemia is typically diagnosed by a physical examination. But it can also be determined by using a pulse oximeter to measure oxygen levels or taking a blood sample for arterial blood gas testing.

Treatment for hypoxemia can only be provided at a hospital. It includes placing a mask over the patient to administer oxygen therapy. The doctor may also inject an IV if the oxygen therapy is not providing relief fast enough. In addition, patients may be injected with steroids to reduce inflammation of the lungs.

Risk Factors of Hypoxemia

Risk factors for hypoxemia include the underlying medical conditions listed above, as well as smoking and altitude changes. If you have asthma, you are at a higher risk of developing hypoxemia — so always follow your doctor’s treatment plan and carry your medications and an inhaler with you.

Preventing Hypoxemia

If you have a medical condition that may affect the oxygen levels in your blood, you can lower your risk of a hypoxemia attack by incorporating healthy lifestyle practices. These include:

  • Staying hydrated
  • Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables
  • Doing low-impact exercises — such as walking, hiking, or yoga
  • Not smoking
  • Avoiding secondhand smoke
  • Doing deep-breathing exercises

Contact Care Options for Kids for Home Health Care

It can be hard to balance your time between work, home, and caring for a loved one with a serious medical condition. Home health care providers offer the support and medical skill sets your family member needs.

If you or a loved one are considering Home Health Care Services, contact the caring staff at Care Options for Kids. Call today at (888) 592-5855.