British warning about the effect of skin color on the accuracy of oxygen meters

Britain's government health care service warned Saturday that devices used by people with Covid to monitor blood oxygen levels at home may give inaccurate readings to people of color.

The warning relates to pulse oximeters, which many people at risk of developing symptoms of the virus currently use to check oxygen levels in their blood. They require hospitalization if reading levels are below a certain level.

The NHS provides these services to people with symptoms of the virus, who are over 65 years old or who are clinically at risk.

"There are reports that pulse oximeters can be less accurate for people with darker skin because they may show higher readings of the level of oxygen in the blood," the authority said in a statement.
The devices, which are attached to the finger, work by shining a light through a person's skin to measure the level of oxygen in the blood.
The updated guidelines for virus patients on the authority's main website warn that "there are some reports that may be less accurate if the skin is brown or black. It may show readings that are higher than the level of oxygen in your blood.”

The text notes that the most important thing is to check regularly to see if the percentage is going down.

The NHS Health and Race Observatory director Habib Naqvi said the issue affected "the diverse black (and) Asian communities".

Members of ethnic minorities, especially black Africans and Bengalis, have had one of the highest death rates from the virus in Britain.

The number of Covid deaths in the United Kingdom reached 129,583 on Saturday, one of the highest rates in the world.

 

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