‘Happy hypoxia’ is silent coronavirus complication that’s proving deadly, docs warn – The Sun

A MYSTERIOUS condition that sees coronavirus patients being able to talk with their loved ones despite a lack of oxygen is proving deadly, doctors have warned.

Patients with the condition known as “happy hypoxia” will display oxygen levels low enough to cause death or unconsciousness.

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Patients attending A&E in the UK have been coming in with oxygen percentage levels in the 80s or 70s and some have even had levels below 50 per cent.

A healthy person would have at least 95 per cent oxygen saturation and one doctor in Manchester said it was “intriguing” to see how hypoxic some patients actually are when attending A&E.

Dr Jonathan Bannard-Smith who works at Manchester Royal Infirmary told The Guardian that the trust was seeing patients who were unaware of their low oxygen saturation levels.

“We wouldn’t usually see this phenomenon in influenza or community-acquired pneumonia. It’s very much more profound and an example of very abnormal physiology going on before our eyes.”

This is while an anaesthetist at Wythenshawe hospital said that patients with other lung conditions would also have hypoxia but that they would usually appear extremely ill.

Dr Mike Charlesworth said with conditions such as pneumonia or a pulmonary embolism, patients would not be able to converse with their healthcare practitioners.

“We just don’t understand it. We don’t know if it’s causing organ damage that we’re not able to detect. We don’t understand if the body’s compensating”, he said.

What is happy hypoxia?

Doctors treating coronavirus patients have said some have displayed signs of the silent happy hypoxia, but what is the condition?

Happy hypoxia: The condition will see the body's oxygen concentration levels drop below 60 per cent in patients infected with the coronavirus.

Patients are not likely to feel uncomfortable at this level, which is why the condition often goes undetected.

As they won't have symptoms, in many cases patients will continue to behave normally before passing out or collasping.

It is dangerous for Covid-19 patients as the body is deprived of oxygen, and the conditon could lead to further complications.

Dr Charlesworth had himself suffered with hypoxia in March when he was suffering with the virus. He said he had a cough and fever and had started to send “strange messages on his phone”.

He said he was “essentially delirious”, and claimed he was sure his oxygen levels were low, but that his “brain wasn’t working very well”.

His symptoms echo that of many older coronavirus patients who have suffered with atypical symptoms such as vomiting fatigue and delirium.

The emergence of such symptoms in Switzerland, the US, France and Italy, led one doctor to create a list of atypical virus symptoms.

Dr Sylvain Nguyen, a geriatrician at the University of Lausanne Hospital in Switzerland said it was important to gather a list of typical and atypical symptoms for older patients. 

The atypical list includes symptoms such as, low blood pressure, abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, fainting, delirium and fatigue.

So far in the UK the virus has killed over 28,000 people and the new symptoms could mean a new approach as to how the virus is treated.

While there have been cases of people with hypoxis surviving, one London doctor said a patient with a saturation of 30 per cent was placed on a ventilator and died within a week. The doctor said the outcome of such patients tends to be bad.

Even though people are displaying low oxygen levels it is in fact the body's reaction to rising levels of carbon dioxide that could save patients with hypoxia.

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If the lungs are unable to clear gas efficiently it could be deadly, as swelling and inflammation of the lungs makes it difficult for oxygen to enter the bloodstream.

In many cases patients are not able to recognise their symptoms in time, which is why the condition is proving deadly.

Dr Charlesworth however said the introduction of equipment such as oximeters would not be useful in detecting hypoxia as he said the legitimacy of some of the machines is questionable and added that transporting the devices would mean more people were out and about on the roads.


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