Underwater diving is a sport that many love and truly enjoy. Enjoying the underwater in solitudes that are almost impossible on land are things that have to be experienced at least once in a lifetime. However, this wonderful recreational activity has a dangerous side effect known as hypoxia. If unchecked, hypoxia can damage tissues permanently or even be deadly. This medical condition is caused by a lack of oxygen in parts of the body.

Diving and Hypoxia

During diving, one of the most important precautions to be taken is to check the blood oxygen level frequently. When oxygen levels go down, metabolism slows and carbon monoxide starts building up in the cells. Hypoxia may not be able to be identified right away. It has a deferring aspect wherein symptoms can appear later.

Suppose you go for a prolonged diving session, maybe lasting 6 – 8 hours. During these sessions, you are exposed to several intervals of inadequate oxygen supply. This eventually builds up and when you finally reach home, you experience uneasy bouts of feeling light headed or specific parts of the body are in pain. When these symptoms show up, you should immediately check the oxygen levels to ensure hypoxia has not set in.

Pulse Oximetry

To prevent such incidents from happening, experienced divers and adventurers use a device called pulse oximeter. This small medical device measures pulse rate and is primarily utilized to calculate blood oxygen saturation levels. Pulse oximeters are portable, durable and extremely accurate.

You can snap the device on a finger and it works by emitting an infrared light through your finger tissue. The index finger is usually used to measure accurate pulse rate and saturation levels. You should not use on fingers with nail polish; this may affect the readings. Cold fingers with minimum blood circulation also do not give accurate results. Remain still while the device works. The light measures the amount of oxygen cells in the blood.

Pulse oximeters have been used by individuals who engage in extreme sports. In divers’ training, when you’re holding your breath for longer periods underwater, you might be affected by pulmonary barotraumas also known as lung squeeze disorder. If symptoms of decreased resting oxygen saturation levels are found, check immediately using an oximeter. During other sessions like aerobics training, static or active apnea training, a pulse oximeter can be used effectively to measure the oxygen levels in the blood. It can be carried anywhere and used immediately.

Scuba divers have modified the device to be water resistant and be able to withstand the high pressure under water. They usually use the device together with their tank level meter. This helps to compare the amount of oxygen they have with how effectively the body is utilizing it. Being an extreme sport, underwater divers, like rock climbers and pilots constantly push their body’s physical limits. Hence, they must check its vital condition at regular intervals.

Before the chip technology became mainstream, pulse oximeter devices were only found in hospitals and were not portable. Modern medical technological advances have made it possible for patients suffering from similar illnesses to monitor their conditions sitting at home.