A doctor explains: What is the six-minute walk test for COVID-19?

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As the nation struggles amid the second wave of coronavirus with increasing demand for medical oxygen, doctors have been advising those infected or suspected of infection to take the six-minute walk test to check their oxygen saturation.

Maharashtra’s state health department has advised citizens to do this to check the functioning of their lungs. In Kolhapur, the civic chief has reportedly made it compulsory for patients in home isolation to do the walk test twice a day. Meanwhile, civic health authorities in Pune have also advised people to do the test.

What is the six-minute walk test?

Doctors suggest that patients isolating at home need to keep a check on their oxygen levels, for which, they should do the six-minute walk test. For this, a patient needs to first monitor their oxygen level, then take a walk inside the room for six minutes and again check their oxygen saturation. “This can be done 2-3 times in a day to keep a tap on the oxygen levels. All people undergoing COVID care at home must check their oxygen levels regularly as it has been observed that people with even low oxygen levels sometimes don’t experience any discomfort- this condition is termed as happy hypoxia,” Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, senior consultant, Internal Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi, tells indianexpress.com.

The oxygen level can be checked on a pulse oximeter, which is helpful in detecting hypoxia associated with COVID-19.

According to the doctor, oxygen levels need to be monitored every six hours. “If the baseline saturation reflecting on the oximeter is below 94 per cent, lying down on your belly can help.” This is known as ‘proning’, a technique that has proven to be an effective measure for treating those with acute respiratory disease.

If ‘proning’ does not improve your oxygen levels, the patient would require a doctor’s help or hospitalisation, Dr Chatterjee says.

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