• October 28, 2009
What are normal oxygen levels for my daughter who has asthma?
October 28, 2009

I am trying to understand what the normal oxygen level for a 15 year old girl should be. During the course of one doctor’s appointment, my daughter’s levels started at 92, then got up to 110, and 20 minutes later dropped to 92. Her lowest level dropped to 88. The doctor notified us that her regular medication would help, but she progressively got worse and couldn’t breathe. In order to monitor her myself, I’m wondering what the normal oxygen levels should be, and when I should be alarmed?

# FROM OUR EXPERTS

• Health Pro
October 29, 2009
Health Pro
October 29, 2009

I'm going to assume that by "oxygen level" you are referring to a pulse oximetry reading, otherwise known as an SpO2 or a pulse ox or sat (some people incorrectly call it a stat).  You can see a picture of one here.  This is where they take a little gadget and place it over your daughters finger and it checks her oxygen level.

First let me explain what a pulse ox is.

What is a pulse ox?  It is a device that allows medical people like me, your nurse or doctor, to determine how much of the oxygen that you breath in is actually getting to your tissues.  Thus, the # 88 means that 88% of the air your daughter was breathing in was getting to her tissues.

What is a normal pulse ox?  Perfectly normal is 98%, although for most people anything greater than 88-92% is acceptable, although the actual range can fluctuate with some hospitals, doctors, or patients.

If you have concerns about your daughters pulse ox, you should probably talk to the doctor and ask him why he thinks 88% is okay.  In my opinion, so long as a patient is relatively stable, I wouldn't worry about a sat of 88.  For one thing it's just a number generated by a machine and can fluctuate +/- 2%.  It's best not to treat a number but the patient.

A reading of 88% is worth noting, but is not critical.  Perhaps this is what your dauther's doctor was thinking.  I have seen asthma patients go home with similar readings and they did just fine.  In fact, my daugher had an asthma attack a few years ago and her sat was 84% and she was sent home with me and ended up just fine.

If your daughter continues to have trouble breathing, or her breathing gets worse, call your doctor or return to the emergency room. And it's always a good idea to continue to monitor your daughter for these signs of asthma, which I'm sure you already do.

• October 29, 2009
October 29, 2009

Thank you, that was very helpful for me.The thing that bothered me so much is that you could clearlly see that my daughter was in distree, that's why the urgent care took her down to the doctors office, after 2 breathing treatments in the urgent care coulnd not keep her oxygen levels up, and we have a breathing machine at home and all the meds he refilled, her immediate condition was not treated by that doctor, and this saddens me.

• Health Pro
November 07, 2009
Health Pro
November 07, 2009

I don't know if this was the case with your situation because I wasn't there, but I know from my own personal experience taking care of children in the emergency room that it sometimes is very hard to get an accurate saturation reading.  That's another thing to consider anyway.  My wife took my asthmatic daughter to see the pediatrician a few years ago and her oxygen level was 83%.  However, since I wasn't there I wonder if that was truly accurate.  The doctor sent my daughter home anyway and she was fine after a few days of breathing treatments and antibiotics.

• June 12, 2013
June 12, 2013

The point is: "she was clearly in distress"  and more or less dismissed by everyone except her mother. That's unacceptable. Kudos to the mother for being her daughter's best advocate when she could not get the medical intervention she needed.