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    Is SpO2 level of 97% a cause for concern?

Posted on Tue, 18 Jul 2017 in Lung and Chest disorders
Question: I am a hypochondriac. Have had sinus congestion and dry cough for some time. Assuming it was related to ACE inhibitor I take or allergy/post nasal drip that I've had for years.
I purchased a pulse oximeter to check my oxygen levels. Here's the result.
Seems to range in the 93-95 level.....but I am a shallow breather. If I slow down and slightly deepen my breathing - inhaling for 2-3 seconds - it consistently registers at 96/97; although sometimes at 95...sometimes at 98.
Does this seem concerning, like emphysema or other.
I do walk 3-4 miles per day at a 16 minute pace - with hills. Don't have a problem - no panting or gasping for air. Just breathing more deeply when I do the hills.
Could my shallow "inhaling in" (maybe 1 second to 1.5 seconds) cause the low readings? Can I take comfort given that inhaling for a little longer (2-3 seconds) almost always drives the % up to 95-98.


Meant to add........
if I inhale through my mouth rather than my nose (which always seems to be congested to some degree), the pulse oxygen % rises to that 95 -97% range.

Do you think my nasal congestion could contribute to the slightly lower percentage?

Answered by Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar 21 minutes later
Brief Answer:
Yes, nasal congestion may sometimes give slightly low Spo2.

Detailed Answer:
Thanks for your question on Healthcare Magic.
I can understand your concern.
No need to worry for this slight variation in Spo2. And also don't think about emphysema.
So no need to worry for emphysema.
And yes, nasal congestion may sometimes give slightly low Spo2.
But no need to worry if Spo2 stays about 91-92 %.
So don't think too much about all these.
You are not having emphysema or other major respiratory diseases.
Hope I have solved your query. I will be happy to help you further. Wish you good health. Thanks.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Nagamani Ng
Follow up: Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar 12 hours later
Doctor, thank you very much for getting back so quickly. Much appreciated.
Don't mean to be a nuisance, but one follow up question if I may.

Sometimes when I take the Spo2 measure it will start off around 93 or so, and then rise to maybe 96 or 97.

Is this due to the oximeter.....is it normal......anything concerning? Just trying to understand.

Thanks again.
Answered by Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar 3 hours later
Brief Answer:
It is normal. No need to worry for this.

Detailed Answer:
Thanks for your follow up question on Healthcare Magic.
I can understand your concern.
It is normal thing.
No need to worry for this.
This happens with almost all pulse oximeters. It is due to sensing delay.
So consider reading after 10-15 seconds of application.
So your oxygen saturation is 97%,not 92-93%.
And don't think this as nuisance. It's my pleasure to solve your query.
You can ask me directly on bit.ly/askdrkaushalbhavsar anytime you want.
Hope I have solved your query. If you are not having further queries, then please close the conversation and rate my answer.
Wish you good health. Thanks.

Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Raju A.T
Answered by
Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar


Practicing since :2008

Answered : 14643 Questions


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