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Sats and monitoring

So before I start just want to say: am ok now, not needing to get help and am NOT worried about this! It's just puzzling me a little and I thought someone on here might have experienced the same. I don't want to ask my GP etc because it really does feel like curiosity more than anything and am also not wanting them to think I am anxious during attacks etc


Asthma has been misbehaving for the last few months and have ended up in least favourite place a few times.

Normally my sats behave themselves even when struggling which is good but can be an issue with the sort of dr who thinks that means you can't possibly be having an attack. However, I've noticed that though mainly when I'm hooked up to the monitor in A&E the numbers will be ok (and I've generally had ok nos on ABG though not always), they will move up and down a lot. I ignore this and try to tune out the beeping as generally they are just going 99-98-97-98-99 etc etc. - just sometimes I got bored and ended up staring at it for a bit hehe.

However, on a few occasions, and in diff places, I've noticed they dip lower briefly - down to low 90s sometimes and last time (Tues NYE -yep lovely way to spend it lol) they did it a few times including right down to 88 for maybe half a min or less and set off the alarms, then back up again to good numbers.

I'm assuming this is not actually a problem if they don't stay there but it kind of surprised me as I always figured if sats dropped they wouldn't just dip like that briefly for no particular reason I can think of then go back up again? It's happened in a few places so I was wondering if this is actually nothing to do with me or lungs but something sats machines do - maybe how the finger sits in the probe or something? My GP wasn't quite happy with 96% the other day (I see nothing wrong with this) and made me put it on another finger on the other hand for a bit longer to see if it was consistent - that was a portable one but I know they can all be a bit weird as when I saw a physio hers used to think my HR was 270 all the time which it really wasn't ever (luckily),

Anyone else had this happen/know why? Sorry for the slight randomness...I just like to know why lol.

9 Replies

I'm assuming it's not on your BP cuff arm!!?! And it know it can drop if finger slips, or when hands are cold, but not sure how that could be so quick. I know that when I move around my sats drop very fast, if you're talking or turning or fidgeting I could imagine them actually dropping, or presumably coughing would do it!! Not sure :-)


Not something I would worry about if it's a momentary drop and not consistent. The body isn't static, heart rate changes slightly all the time too, we just don't notice it unless we are staring at a machine!

There are a raft of things which can affect sp02 meter readings, which are discussed further down here:

Interestingly (though in some ways it's a no brainer) the above is clear that you treat the patient and their presentation, not the sp02 meter reading!



i I have also spent time gazing at the numbers on these machines on the way up from an attack, there is sometimes not much else to entertain you lol.

When having an attaack my stats are usually around 94 - 95 but I have noticed if I am lying still and my breathing shallow it will drop down to the high 80s but if i talk or yawn or take a few deep breaths then it goes back up to the 90s again.


Hi Philomela,

Sorry to hear you about your new year. This is something I noticed in A&E the other week, I had massive shakes from using so much salbutamol that the sensor kept moving around and this seemed to make my SATs jump around from 92-96. The nurse ended up holding my hand still so I presume this is what caused the jumping around. I often have problems with the potable ones and cold hands (often they just refuse to even work) and the HR is often really high (my GP does it manually as he once said that I would be in hospital if they took the monitors word for it - easily hitting 200 bpm).

Thank you NurseFurby for the link - an important message very well made. I wish I had the guts to show it to the GP when I see him later as I am often dismissed as not being too bad because my SATs are 97/8 but then in end up in A&E a few hours later!



That is a very good point you have raised Philomela as when i do go into an attack high sats, clear chest and skyhigh heartrate and response i usually get is that you are panaking too much you are having a panic attack. Look your sat levels are really good (coughing like mad and struggling for breath) NO oxygen given because sat levels fine but heart working on tripple time, but you really need to get heart rate down. to me that smacks of an asthma attack

got to go having thunderstorms here bbl


Thanks for that link nursefurby, very interesting! Wish more people would not 'go by the numbers'. I have been given oxygen with ok sats (on Tues and once in resus and after) though tbh have never been convinced I needed it and thought they were just on autopilot or something...maybe they were doing what that link says and not just looking at the monitor though I didn't feel like it was that bad? I wasn't worried by the drops, it was more of a 'wtf?' kind of thing precisely because I know I don't usually drop sats, figured if I did it would be for longer than that and also felt I was not really bad enough for a reading of 88%...I just couldn't work out why it was doing that.

Sadly with those $%^&*( machines I know exactly what my HR etc is doing and also in my local A&E what sats are doing as they have notes - I think F is 100%, E flat is 99% etc so I can hear it playing a little tune lol. And then going beeepp etc (the nurse on Tues set HR to the higher level which I was v grateful for as otherwise it never shuts up, but then there's the resp rate alarm and the disconnection alarm etc etc.) I have to say I am not one to worry about the numbers - I usually assume the machine is playing up if anything looks funny and it does seem sats monitors have that habit.

Soph - it was BP arm yes, which guess it shouldn't be though not sure if there was a correlation between drops and BP measurements!

Kayla - sorry to hear about A&E :( and GP grrr. Good luck later and hope you get a more sympathetic and helpful one who gets it!


I'll have to listen out for the tune next time then Philomela!

My experience in A&E was one where I was sent by 111 (who I phoned as I thought I needed steriods), was told I would probably be sent to OOH after triage (same building) but peak flow and SATs were both low so kept by them. The irony that the one time everything was low, I didn't feel that bad is not lost! On the otherhand, the GP I saw today didn't bother with SATs/peak flow etc because I wasn't wheezing (I think he only took my pulse because it has been really high the last few weeks). Can't wait for my usually 2 GPs and asthma nurse to get back. Perhaps I should tell them to coordinate their holidays better! Grrrrrr


Dearie me, nurses are useless. Should never have sp02 meter on same arm as blood pressure cuff...!


hehehe! they do it all the time though Nursefurby!! I once had a them try to record my spo2 as like 88% or something and they were trotting off to get some nasal cannulae when my BP was taken!!! craziness!!!


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