• Jessica Colarossi

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    Photo of Jessica Colarossi. A white woman with long, straight brown hair and wearing a black and green paisley blouse smiles and poses in front of a dark grey background.

    Jessica Colarossi is a science writer for The Brink. She graduated with a BS in journalism from Emerson College in 2016, with focuses on environmental studies and publishing. While a student, she interned at ThinkProgress in Washington, D.C., where she wrote over 30 stories, most of them relating to climate change, coral reefs, and women’s health. Profile

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There are 59 comments on Three Reasons Why COVID-19 Can Cause Silent Hypoxia

  1. A huge thanks to the researchers for their tremendous work in better understanding and learning to treat this novel coronavirus. Well written article on such a complex (&frightening) illness.

  2. The idea that a VQ mismatch in lung disease is obvious. The article is not specific at all- what is the median PaO2 compared to the SPO2?

    A lot of smart people missing the obvious because they lack clinical experience and ignore basic science. A old RRT.

  3. My big brother (72yo) passed away a little over a week ago from Covid-19 pneumonia. He was in Texas. I live in Oregon. He had asthma and from what I can surmise from this paper, suffered through the same symptoms and treatments, including lying prone. When I heard this, I immediately had questions. Unfortunately, I was getting updates sporadically and third person. And it was too late. Before I pose my question, a partial, personal, medical history.
    At the age of 27-28, I was on a ventilator (trach) with pneumonia and my entire thoracic cavity saturated by infection and lying on a Stryker Frame. I was systematically flipped every four hours for roughly two months. I did not improve and nearly died a couple of times. We finally demanded transfer to another hospital. I was immediately placed on a bed that rocked side to side 24/7. I was off the ventilator in 2-3 weeks and the pneumonia defeated. I understand Covid pneumonia is far more difficult to defeat but I can’t help but wonder.

    1. Duane were you able to breathe on your own and keep your oxygen flow normal without using breathing mask. I currently have covid 19 pneumonia and cant breathe on my own without using my breathing mask but they are giving me steroids to help fight inflammation and liquid in lungs. What can I do.

    2. Are you thinking that that side to side swinging bed helped you it sounds like that’s what you’re pondering on I’m only asking because my dad is 66 years old got the Pfizer shot and a month and a half later currently now is been sick with codes for the first time and I don’t know what to do he’s Vincent home they gave him a typical steroid of blood thinner and anxiety pill had him on oxygen but nothing else was working as long as they’re collapsing and giving up I only half of them are working right now and he can barely breathe with tightness they have him home now on hospice care just waiting to die and hopefully that goes smoothly and he doesn’t feel a thing I’m definitely afraid he will I’m hoping that there is some kind of way we can bounce him back and stop this I’m almost too late and he can go at any time and I’ve looked and try to figure out how many options to try to do things different to figure it out it’s hard cuz I’m not there I don’t believe these shots are actually help you have to leave that they’re hurting people and therefore my kids my husband and I are not vaccined my whole family have been exposed and got covid even ones vaccine prior to and my family never vaccine won’t do it we are fine I’m stuck in the dilemma and I don’t know what to do and I’ll do anything to try to figure out how to save him it’s not his time to go my mom is sick too she has blockage in her heart she’s older than he is I’m about to lose both of them one after the other and a quick pace and I am begging for options in an trying to figure out what there is out there cuz there is something we just are not given the knowledge I feel like it’s being kept from us I don’t understand this world anymore and I’m so definitely afraid please recommendations should I have him swing back and forth while doing so how was your position laying in that bed while rocking back and forth so I decide left to right correct

      1. Omg sweetie I’m taking care of my mother your father situation is similar like my mother they sent her home with hospice also she was in the hospital for a month now they are saying she has COVID hypoxia I’m to God to save my mom it like they are waiting for her to die I’m not giving up on God or my mom

          1. I was just discharged from hospital with Pulmonary Hypertension and Hypoxia. I’m currently on 5L of oxygen at rest and 6-8L on exertion. I’m currently being followed by a team and have been receiving a sort of cocktail of medication , I guess to slow progression and try to improve my quality of life. I am looking to find more help and advice on who I can reach out to, I guess, basically to save my life. Any suggestions or recommendations would be very much appreciated.

      1. My husband had COVID pneumonia in Oct 2020. He spent over 100 days in hospital, twice on ventilator. Oxygen kept dropping with every move while on oxygen..Last process was to give mega steroids for scar tissue in lungs. He was released to rehab but after 5 weeks unable to perform or progress with rehab.Prior to being released we learned of a supplement by a homeopathic dr called Serapeptase. We purchased some, got approval to use and the results were incredible. Although he still has hypoxia, his recovery went from 15 mins to 4 mins. He has used this supplement since last April 2021 and has remained healthy for most part. He is a transplant recipient and was a high risk for complications. We continue to research homeopathic treatment as well as anything else we can find out. He can walk short distance but does still drop oxygen, although it isn’t dropping really low..maybe low to mid 80s bur recovery is faster.

    3. The hospital beds you were on was called the Roto rest bed by kinetic Corporation of America. I know that because I was the man who produced It in America I bought the patents from dr. Francis Keane of Dublin Ireland who invented the bed.

      1. Wow thank you for doing that! Are they available in Australia? And is their a private as a opposed to a commercial variation of these beds please?

  4. As a young mother I moved to northern WI, and suffered massive sinus , colds, flu ect. every winter. I survived but only when I began herbals did I improve, and became aware that I was not able to take a breath to the lung ‘bottom’ . Now at 74, I walk to town and monitor my breathing chalking up a ‘good walk’ when I can take a breath that ‘bottoms out.” My doctor told me decades ago that I had lung fibrosis. Ideopathic.
    I suspect blastomycosis rampant in northern WI was the original infectious agent. I read now that these 3 fungals cover all of the US: blastomycosis, coccidiosis, and histoplasmosis.

  5. COVID dissociates the oxygen and carbon dioxide carrying iron ion from hemoglobin, thus inducing both lung inflammation due to iron poisoning and hypoxia due to inhibited ability to transport blood gases, a condition exacerbated by blood anemias, such as Sickle Cell.

  6. My bhabhi is a covid 19 patient and on NIV (B grade)from last twelve days.Whenever NIV is being removed, her oxygen level drips badly.Any suggestions please for further treatment…?

  7. I am post-covid-pneumonia. Discharged hypoxic >93 on home Oxygen via 0² extractor. Twice daily Oximeter use continues and reading are mostly 95 to 97. However, at times my sats are between 87 and 93. I am concerned because I do not feel at all worse for wear at these times. I am able to pump up my sats to 97 in about 5 deep diaphragm breaths and to 99 in less than 10. I think my fear of damaged organs due to hypoxia may be misplaced. Am I underestimating a threat here?

    1. My oxygen levels are doing the same exact thing I am also concerned if it’s damaging my organs in any shape form or fashion when I start moving around and walking my oxygen level drops to the 80s and my heart rate goes up over 130 please if anyone has answers I’m willing to listen this is very scary especially when you live alone and doctors can’t seem to give me any answers I am on 3 l of oxygen as needed

      1. Dear Marla, I am 42 years old and looking to be on oxygen for the rest of my life because of what the doctors are calling everything from undiagnosed sleep apnea that has caused permanent damage, to COPD, to covid lung,..the point is, I am experiencing the same thing. It seems random but probably isn’t. My oxygen will just bottom out to the high 60’s and I won’t know it during the day and down to 41 at night. I have no symptoms except my lips turn blue (almost black at night) and since I can not see myself, have no idea this is happening. I have been to my family doctor, who seems to be the only doctor that is taking this at all seriously (until I get to my specialist appointments, and it happens in their office, Then, it’s an emergency.) The heart specialist says there is nothing wrong with my heart. The Sleep specialist, says I don’t have sleep apnea. He did notice that just the act of moving or laying down makes my oxygen level drop drastically (67 – 79)…but it’s not sleep apnea. I have been to the lung specialist and they are getting a bunch of testing underway but they still haven’t put a name to it except “silent hypoxia”. I finally took matters into my own hands and purchased a wellvu oxygen monitor you wear as a ring (it’s kind of big and takes a minute to get used to wearing). It vibrates when my oxygen level drops below 90. I am now supposed to wear oxygen 24/7 so it is important that I know when it’s happening. I need to know what is causing this and how to fix it and if there is a pattern to it. It sends a daily report to my phone that I can then send via email to my family doctor so she can keep a very close eye on whatever this is. I had to research and find the ring myself as none of the specialists had any idea how I could monitor without wearing a clunky finger monitor all day. (I found it on ebay for around $140)

        Before all this happened I was a very active waitress working packed house weekends. The only reason I even know there is a problem is that my daughters also work at the restaurant and noticed that I had purple lips. They know I don’t wear make-up so they asked me about my purple lips. They probably saved my life with that small observation.

        You said you live alone, so I wanted to let you know that there is a monitor that you can get that might give you some peace of mind. It measures your o2 levels, your pulse, and the amount of motion you were doing that caused the drop. It has EKG Type readings/graphs. It is all very informative, and I hope it will help my team of doctors figure this out. Just remember you are your best advocate and speak up for yourself and your needs. Keep your chin up and know that just because you live alone, doesn’t mean you ARE alone.

        1. I can’t believe it, someone who has the same experiences I do. I just got put in rehab from the hospital earlier today. The doctors originally said I had covid pneumonia. They gave me a couple days of antibiotics and stopped. I wasn’t coughing or anything but I was having ‘episodes ‘. All of a sudden I will start to sweat, my heart will start to race, I feel like someone is slowly suffocating, I get intense pain throughout my body, more on my left, everything starts to get slow until I can’t speak or move and sometimes I lose consciousness. Every episode isn’t always that extreme but they are all terrible. It takes me several minutes to recover and I am not ever back to myself again. I contracted covid around Jan. 21 and never had terrible symptoms. I can’t even walk to the bathroom anymore, I have a comod by the bed and need help to do that. They are saying the episodes are anxiety induced. I feel like I’m dying. I am 56 years old and was very active before January 27th when the episodes of losing consciousness started. Anything you can say to help would be greatly appreciated.

      2. I am having same issues. Had covid pneumonia spent8 days in hospital on steroids and blood clot shots and oxygen. Releases with 9 days of steroids better. For 4 weeks then Bam oxygen levels start dropping and pulse rises aver 100 tests at our hospital don’t come up with anything released with oxygen. This keeps everything correct

      3. Marla Crooms, I’ve had COVID-19 and am also on oxygen 24/7 but I also have COPD. Which wasn’t acting up at all. I was in the hospital 3 days they sent me home with pneumonia. I told them I was afraid to go home. They still discharged me. 2 days later My primary Dr. Said I have tachycardia. Went to cardiologist and medication helped with the fast heart rate. But I’m still on oxygen I go back to cardiologist February 11th. I’ll let you know what she says.

    2. I have these exact symptoms and was recently sent to emergency room when doctor treating my strep throat noticed the dip to 88. It appears that my oxygen levels dip after a significant coughing event. I had a CT scan that showed no blood clotting. But I wonder if micro clotting in my lungs might be the cause of temporary low oxygen after agitation.

  8. I have post Covid silent hypoxia. I had a bad case of Covid in December for weeks and got the BAM infusion. I couldn’t shake the cough and also got strep. While at the office of the second pulmonologist ( the first said I had allergies) my oxygen dropped to 81. They put me in the hospital and every test was unremarkable. I now have supplemental O2 and after a sleep study where I continually drop to low 80s, I have a Cpap and O2. It has been 8 months – I’m generally around 90-91 without O2 but will desat to 80 at rest watching tv. My endurance is terrible and working 1/2 a day is nearly impossible. Please find a treatment for us.

    1. How old are you? I was taking my husband SpO2 and it was 91,92,85,78,90- Freaks me out, and he says he feels fine, just tired sometimes. He’s 50, and to our knowledge he has never had Covid, but was vaccinated in January.

    2. Hi Michelle,

      I have never tested positive for COVID but have had the same symptoms as you and am 37 years old. Currently being seen by a internist and being put through many tests to find out why I sat so low on and off throughout the day. Wondering if maybe I’ve had covid before the pandemic took off and never had the official testing. I am a nurse and have worked through several outbreaks and never contracted it but thinking this may make sense. Thanks for sharing

      1. My husband (55) never had Covid, but was vaccinated in March. Also having low numbers often in the 80s , he now uses a steroid inhaler while doing much cardiac and pulmonary testing to discover the cause. No previous heart or lung issues. Levels stay around 93, but randomly falls into the 80s, completely asymptomatic.

    3. Michele, I’ve been on a CPAP for almost 13 years and for quite some time when I first started using it, I had daytime hypoxia (desat) for no real reason that I could tell. Since then I’ve read studies that indicate that daytime hypoxia is somewhat common with those who have sleep apnea but I don’t think it has been well studied. I can tell you that it took years for my daytime hypoxia to improve and even now I can drop down to low 90s just when walking.

      One thing I would suggest is making sure you have a good AHI. One study (“Age, Body Mass Index, and Daytime and Nocturnal Hypoxia as Predictors of Hypertension in Patients With Obstructive Sleep Apnea”) noted that “AHI plays a synergistic role with age, comorbidity, obesity, daytime, and nocturnal hypoxia in the development of hypertension.”

      That suggests that AHI is related to daytime hypoxia (among other things) and is worth checking on. You may need a pressure adjustment.

      There are two more studies that talk a bit about the link between night time hypoxia from sleep apnea and the link to daytime hypoxia, I don’t know if they will help but I thought I’d share:

      “The Relationship of Daytime Hypoxemia and Nocturnal Hypoxia in Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome” by Fanfulla et al.

      “Chronic intermittent hypoxia and obstructive sleep apnea: an experimental and clinical approach” by Sforza et al.

    4. My mom 70 she has the same as u they have sent her home on hospice I’m praying my mom will make it she is still fighting she is diabetic She is on 4 l of oxygen trying my best to keep my mom healthy. We believe in God She came home with bed sores from the hospital. I have been flipping her from one side to the other and keeping her very clean. She is very weak. They have her on steroids and other medications still any advice so my mom can get strong please

  9. Can you help with suggestions on how to address deteriorating respiratory issues in a Covid patient (35 yrs old) in Myanmar but without any medical or pharmacological assistance. It is impossible to get help. I can only think of blowing into a balloon. However other household members are sick too. I have limited and frequent internet link but I cannot do nothing.

    1. If you have resperitory problems apply for either disability or you can get help through All the hospital’s if you have no insurance. It’s called a charity financial aid. I have it and anything My Medicare insurance doesn’t cover they pay it all. It lasts a Year. But you can reapply and get it again. If your income is below $32,000.00 you’ll be approved for 100%>

  10. As a respiratory therapist I have worked with many covid patients and as you know we have trouble oxygenating these patients. I came across this article, Preservation of myocardial contractility during acute hypoxia with OMX-CV, a novel oxygen delivery biotherapeutic. I was wondering if anyone knew more about this drug or other biotherapeutics that aid in oxygenation.

  11. I suffer from emphysema and am quite breatless at times. I had my double vaccine and actually ended up in hospital suffering from low oxygen levels. I reall only got breatless if a chest infection was occurring. Now as soon as i get up to walk my oxygen levels are falling quite quickly. . Respiratory nurse said it sounded more like long covid . Will this be a permanent thing now. I ve been given oxygen to assist me but dont know if my condition is going to improve.

      1. That’s something only your doctor can tell you. It sounds like it would be awful to get Covid again after being left with long term side effects of having covid.

    1. I have COPD and since Covid I’m on oxygen 24/7 prior to Covid I was only using oxygen for activities and hardly at all for that. If I take oxygen off and do something like let My dog out My oxygen drops to 82. So I think more happened to My lungs since Covid

  12. Hello everyone my moms currently incubated she is breathing on 34% of her own oxygen which means she’s completely depending on the ventilator machine breaks my heart that her oxygen levels are super low . She does have diabetes and high blood pressure .my mom does have asthma as well. her COVID infection already became pneumonia. She hasn’t improved at all and she’s been the the ventilator on sedation for 5 days today. At this moment I’m just seeking for help to save my moms guidence on what I can do to help her oxygen levels get stable.

  13. My oxygen secretion never drops less than 95. I am 71. Hospitallised sin 11 days. Ct findings 1/25,4/25 and16/25.no fatique,loss of smell or any other symptoms except sleeplessness. Is any matter of concern

  14. I’ve been suffering form a chronic cough and low oxygen levels an d racing heartbeat with minimal exercise. I have been looking at hyberbaric chamber therapy for treatment of this issue. There are reports of this therapy benefiting post-COVID patients with this “silent hypoxia”.

  15. In the UK. I have an underlying condition of Liver disease (NAFLD) and chirosis.
    I have previously had a build up of fluid on the lungs (pleural effusion) which required some intervention at hospital but have been managing since at home with only a little fluid in lower limbs due to low albumin levels.
    However despite being triple inoculated I tested positive for covid on 14th Feb 2022.
    This has led to hospitalisation afain with a pleural effusion but with a subtle difference in that my oxygen levels drop significantly on minimal exertion, I went up and down the stairs at the hospital, perhaps 5 flights, and immediately had the oxymeter when I’d finished which read 75٪. I was a tad breathless but could still communicate and the levels recovered in under 5 minutes. I am currently on intravenous diuretics and the fluid levels are reducing but the oxygen saturation is still problematic.

  16. Have you tried the hyperbaric treatment? I’m looking into this myself. I am almost 1 year from getting covid and my O2 still drops into mid to upper 80’s when I exert myself like going up a flight of stairs. Frustrating as it has been so long with this, but I’m grateful i’m not where i was when i got out of the hospital

  17. So how do they detect what’s wrong with your lungs and oxygen sats going low that no one can explain and nothing shows up on ct scan or mri? How do we fix our lungs and oxygen and get feeling better?!

  18. Fall of 2022 hospitalized for a week with breathing issues. Diagnosed with low oxygen in my blood. I’m now on an inhaler twice daily along with a rescue inhaler. Along with that I have now got asthma along with narcolepsy. No problems with breathing before the covid pandemic.

  19. Both of my parents passed away within two days of each other and my sister has long haul covid. All three of my family members were in the hospital at the same time. They wanted my sister to choose to die. She has two young children. She did not and now has trouble walking with her pulse ox going down in the high 80’s sometimes seems lower she knows her body and when it is scary low. She can sit on an exercise bike and pulse ox is fine but the minute she walks or goes upstairs she has to take breaks for her oxygen to go back up. Is there anyone that has any kind of advice on how to go about helping with this? There has to be others out there maybe someone has something that has helped get the body back to working properly.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. She sees so many different Dr’s and no one ever has anything to say it is so ridiculous.

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