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All you need to know about happy hypoxia experienced during coronavirus

Updated on:3 May 2021, 15:32pm IST
Covid-19 symptoms today range from mild fever and cough to breathing issues and happy hypoxia. Yes, the latter term is a relatively new symptom – but worry not, because we have all the information you need.
Geetika Sachdev
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Keep monitoring your oxygen levels using a pulse oximeter. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Covid-19 has not just thrown our lives off track — it has also instilled fear among people due to its unpredictable nature. When the virus was first reported in India in 2020, it was characterised by common symptoms like cold, cough, fever, as well as loss of taste and smell. In serious cases, it was either pneumonia, breathlessness or the formation of clots in the tiny blood vessels.

With time, the range of symptoms has increased. This has only exacerbated the confusion and worry amongst the population. The second wave of coronavirus has introduced to us a very dangerous symptom called ‘happy hypoxia’ which is characterised by very low levels of oxygen in the blood. 

Before we talk more about how to identify this, let’s understand what happy hypoxia means

What is happy hypoxia?

The term hypoxia signifies low oxygen levels in the blood. In a healthy person, the normal oxygen saturation is above 95 per cent, but in certain patients suffering from Covid-19, the levels drop as low as 40 per cent. In this case, there is a high likelihood of failure of vital organs like the kidneys, brain and heart. What’s alarming in the case of happy hypoxia is that no external signs are visible. This means that in the initial stages of Covid-19, the patient appears to be happy and healthy but on the inside, his lungs are in poor condition. 

What is the reason for the decrease in oxygen levels?

The primary cause of happy hypoxia is widespread clotting that occurs in the network of small blood vessels in the lungs. This is largely caused by an inflammatory reaction in the body, triggered by Covid-19. The infection causes cellular protein reactions that lead to blood clots, thereby preventing cells and tissues in the lungs to get enough oxygen supply. 

happy hypoxia
Keep an oximeter handy if you have a coronavirus patient at home. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
What should you do?

It is important to get your hands on a pulse oximeter to keep a check on the blood oxygen saturation and the heart rate. It is clipped on to the fingertip, through which it determines oxygen levels in the bloodstream, and on the other hand, monitors the pulse rate as well.

Unfortunately, not just the elderly, but the younger population, who are in their 20s and 30s are also experiencing happy hypoxia. It is even scarier because many of them have blood oxygen levels as low as 80 per cent, and yet do not show any symptoms in the initial stage. 

Here’s how you can identify happy hypoxia

As mentioned above, it is hard to identify happy hypoxia. Hence, you need to keep checking your blood oxygen levels at regular intervals. In some people, the colour of their lips changes to blue, and there are some significant changes in the colour of their skin. Also, sweating profusely, even without engaging in any vigorous physical activity can point to a problem with oxygen levels.

Make sure you keep a close watch on the symptoms. In case something isn’t right, visit a doctor immediately without any delay. 

Geetika Sachdev Geetika Sachdev

An independent writer and journalist, Geetika loves sharp and fresh humour, just like her coffee! If not writing, you'll find her cafe-hopping and raiding the best book stores in town.