Doctors are calling on community healthcare professionals, members of the public and patients themselves to be aware of silent hypoxia. They nurses, paramedics and healthcare assistants to monitor patients with diagnosed or suspected covid for this hidden symptom, and to teach patients and members of the public how to monitor themselves. 

The goal is to identify the condition as early as possible — while people are still at home — so that patients present to the NHS earlier in the course of their illness, leading to earlier treatment, more lives being saved and the severe long-term consequences of covid illness being reduced. 

Dr Matt Inada-Kim, consultant in acute care medicine at Hampshire Hospitals and national clinical lead for deterioration and sepsis for NHS England, treated hundreds of patients during the first wave of covid-19. He describes seeing them arrive in the emergency department with varying degrees of hypoxia and cyanosis, wishing he could have seen those patients at an earlier stage of their illness. 

He has called for patients and the public to be able to monitor themselves at home by making pulse oximeters widely available so they know when to present with covid symptoms.  

Doctors are also pushing for patients, carers and members of the public to be educated to recognise danger signs of the illness. These are signs that point to ‘deterioration’, a turning point in a person’s illness when they can rapidly worsen and need to be admitted to hospital. 

Empowering patients to watch out for silent hypoxia - video embed code required