One of the biggest problems that severe asthmatics encounter is having to convince people that they are unwell and struggling despite sats suggesting otherwise.
Even during an asthma attack I have been known to have oxygen levels in the mid 90’s yet on the other hand I have also felt fine yet my levels can be down in the low to mid 80’s. Don’t get me wrong, checking my levels is usually a pretty good guide as to how I am feeling / coping but that is all it is, a guide!
The same can be said for peak flow readings, they are a guide but again that is what they are, a guide, it is not always 100% accurate though and it is important that symptoms and what the asthmatic is saying are also taken into account. I specifically mention listening to the asthmatic as the only person who knows exactly how they are feeling is the asthmatic them self, I know when I am struggling, I know my own symptoms (which aren’t always your traditional asthma symptoms, for example I don’t always wheeze), I know how my chest feels and I know how hard I am finding it to breathe.
On numerous occasions I have found myself laying in A & E and having a doctor telling me that I am not wheezing and my sats are ok and so it can’t be asthma, only then for them to check my blood gases and find that there is a problem! It is frustrating as this is probably the best guide as to what is going on and yet is not the first test done. The only problem with this test is that it hurts like hell as the needle is buried deep into your artery!
As my consultant always tells me, I am the expert, I know my condition better than anyone else, another thing that she often says is that sats don’t matter too much, she would rather see me feeling well with below average sats rather than the struggling to breathe but having reasonable sats. I now have total confidence in my knowledge of my asthma and if I feel that I am struggling I act accordingly and don’t take no for an answer if a paramedic or doctor disagree, so far I have always been proven right.
For parents of asthmatic children I would always advise them to trust their own eyes and their knowledge of their childs condition, by all means check their sats but don’t base your decision on whether to seek medical attention purely on sats, always base the decision on your knowledge and what you see in front of you!