COPD oxygen levels

Good morning I am writing on behalf of my mother who is 79 years old and up until 8 weeks ago was managing very well with her COPD. However now it's a different picture as her breathlessness has become so bad it takes her to do basics like get dressed and even brushing her hair is difficult. When rested she appears well and can have long conversations without any problem. Recently she has been prescribed 2mg of Diazepam and 15mg Mirtrazepam as she has become anxious and depressed due to not being able to do basic housework. I bought an oximetry as in the last 4 weeks her readings have been between 92/95 and last night they were 84/86. She hasn't had gas checks but was thinking of contacting her GP. Also dietitian coming tomorrow as struggling to maintain a good diet. I am pleased to be in touch with people who are aware of these concerns as it feels as a family we lack support.

40 Replies

Hello BlackRuby and welcome to this wonderful site. I don't have COPD but I am sure that one the experienced folk will be along. What I would say is that any drastic drop in oxygen levels needs investigating, along with your Mother's increased breathlessness. It is time to go to the GP and tell them that you want a referral to a good lung specialist for her. Don't take no for an answer. Once she has a consultant you can go along and ask questions, they will tell her GP how to adjust her treatment and hopefully you will feel that you have support. Good luck.


Although generally accurate home oximeters are not very good for spot checks, they usually need time to settle. The two numbers you give seems a large difference over a short period of time.

Have you access to a respitory team who could arrange a home visit to assess whether further test are required.

Long term oxygen therapy is decided by Aterial blood gasses test, and Ambulitory oxygen therapy is decided by a six minute walk test, ( not necessarily required to walk the full six minutes)

Hi BlackRuby123 a very warm welcome to our friendly and informative forum. You will find lots of people willing to help you in any way that can.

From what you say, your mother needs checking out by her Doctor to find out why she is getting so breathless. It could be her COPD or possibly she may have some sort of infection. I don't know about the medication she has recently been prescribed but I would read the leaflets that came with it to see if there are any side effects that could be causing problems.

When getting a breathing (Spirometery) test at the Doctors, I have found that they do it while resting. I had my Oxygen Levels checked at the hospital last week and they were 97% resting but as soon as I start walking they drop to 83%-84%. That doesn't necessarily mean you need oxygen, it could mean that your airways need opening up. Like I said earlier, your mother needs checking out to find the cause of her breathlessness.

Hopefully others will be along shortly that may offer some better advise.

If you are really concerned about your mothers breathing ring the NHS Helpline on 111 to see what they advise.

It is good that your mother has you for support.

Take care.

Regards. John


I have the same two conditions as your mum and i was put on Mirtazepam. I was told by my consultant after this under no circumstances was i to take anything that would make me sleepy as it slows your breathing down. In my case using that medication had created a build up of c02 and i was in hospital for a week after only taking them for about 5 days.

Obviously thats my experience and it dosnt mean it will be your mums but signs of high co2 are waking with terrible headaches that knock you for 6, feeling drowsy and confused and your sats are all over the place (mine were)...I would definitely be getting someone to look at her meds and check her blood gasses .

It may be a good idea to see if your doctor could refer her to a pulmonary rehabilitation course. Many of us here have been on it and its full of information on taking good care of yourself in many ways including the right diet etc and also learning about the condition..You could go with her too im sure it would be ok as i took someone with me

Thank you all so much for the first time I dont feel alone. Mum has had a CT scan and her respiratory consultany reckons its a progression of the narrowing of the airways. We are awaiting pulmonary rehab and dietition. Its quite difficault for my Dad to come to terms with this as he feels she should try and walk about more and do things and she will get better. Mum has complained of headaches across her brow area lately since starting her anxiety and ant depressant table and she looks a bit drug induced. Often wonder if they're worth it as I was led to believe if she is less anxious her muscle at her airway might relax and cause less constriction. Her GP called today and said she is not concerned about a reading between 81-85. Take Care

Welcome to you and your mum x

Oxygen is the bodies fuel. You can't do a hundred with only 81/85 fuel.

EDITED by mrsmummy

I find your posting disturbing, yes we know we will die with COPD but we will also die without it. I have been on 24//7 oxygen for almost 12 months and it does get you down, I have tried very hard to keep the rest of my body fit and carry on doing as much as possible but recently depression has been affecting me more and more.

EDITED by mrsmummy

Tatters please consider ringing the BLF helpline to discuss any problems in using the oxygen and your depression.

03000 030 555

Well done Sherlock, thanks!

I remembered it and must have been looking for it as you were posting about it!

I have been very positive doing exercises most days but then you get the reality, the hardest part is accepting your condition. The various departments all tell me how wonderful I am doing not just sitting here all day long. But it gets to me sometimes. Thanks for your comments.

Hi tatters I can understand how you are feeling. I finally got the courage to speak to my GP about how I was feeling. Due to my COPD and recently being dx with psoriatic arthritis. Due to the really bad side effect you can get with taking the medication. She put me on antidepressants and I see her every month to talk about how I am feeling. I find it a great help. Hope you will get help with your depression. X

Crikey - what a brilliant GP.

Yes she is O2Trees. Pity there is not more like her.

Thanks for your post, but I really don't want to start taking anti-depressants. It may get to that but hopefully not just yet.

I can understand that. Take care.

I agree with the not rushing in with anti depressants as sometimes these jeopardise your other treatments and condition. Think it's all about the mind set as I'm sure the only reason my mum started them was the GP told her she would feel better!!! As in she thought she'd be able to be more exertive

I agree you should not rush in to anything. I have been lucky because the antidepressants I am on have not affected any of my treatments. If anything my breathing and 02 levels are really good. Hope your mum gets the proper treatment and medication soon. Take care.

What is the name of your anti ds are they non sedative type?

Hi BlackRuby the anti ds I I take do have a small amount of sedative in them . They are called Trazodone the other name on the box is Molipaxin 50mg capsuals. I take 3 before I go to my bed. X

Thankyou for this.

Hi Hannah I am so glad that you accepted the help offered. My mum suffered severe depression and an eating disorder all her life. So I can imagine what you went through. Take care xx

That's so kind of you :) I never want to go back to that awful dark place again. Not wanting to be dramatic but the anti-ds really saved my life. It's a shame our modern drugs & therapy probably weren't around to help your poor mum. Thank god those days are in the past.

Yes the treatment was a lot different back in my mums days. Thank god they are not like that now. Xx

My mother stopped smoking 6 years ago and before that had a strict 8 a day on the low silk cut. I realise this is a distressing illness for all involved and sometimes I do agree with Bmike about the doctors ☹️ However sites like this are so supportive with ideas and suggestions and I know depression is common so we need to try and stay positive. I was wondering why my Mum hasn't been offered the gas test as there seems to be issues with retention of the CoD being harmful? We've been to the respiratory consultant that didn't seem to pursue this however my Mums reading was 93 on that day. Take care X

Hey! Black Ruby.. It is possible that ur Mum's COPD is not progressed enough to alarm the respiratory therapist to a blood-gas stick. It must be done in an artery and can be quite painful. The therapist is saving ur Mum this discomfort until it is quite necessary. She helped everyone involved by quitting smoking, not to mention herself. She could be much sicker or even in heaven by now if she hadn't stopped. Congrats!

Hi BlackRuby - Ive only ever had the arterial blood gas test when i was an inpatient in hospital. There is also an ear prick test which is quicker and easier but it requires the machinery to process the blood and give you a result. It's not quite as accurate as the ABG test but more so than an oximeter.

Some people's O2 sats go down at night, so maybe that is happening. If you can't get anywhere with your GP, try calling your consultant's secretary, they are usually very helpful. Explain what is happening and ask her (usually a her!) to pass on your questions to the consultant. Ive always found that to help. Most respiratory practitioners would consider 84/85 to need investigation. Good luck.

I will call GP again tomorrow to ask why she is happy with this low reading. Have the dietition coming today as Mum has a bad relationship with food.

Remember that the GP is a generalist - they don't and can't know everything (though O2 is pretty basic I'd have thought). If they are presented with something beyond their knowledge then they should refer you on. If you don't get a satisfactory reply from your mum's GP then ask for a second opinion which you're entitled to. You may well get referred back to the consultant. You could also ask if there is a community respiratory team in your area.

Also sometimes O2 sats can go down if you have an infection - this happens with me, so another thing to bear in mind.

Tatters you stay positive as your strength keeps me focuses and your right this group is here to be supportive. Hope you have a comfortable day X

EDITED by mrsmummy

It's not the original post , it's some of the replies that have upset you.

My advice is to ignore the scaremongering ones, and get back to enjoying your day.


Can I please remind everyone that abusive posts should be reported and NOT responded to and that we should not direct negative comments or accusations at named members.


Thank you so much Hannah as Ive seen her rubbing her brow and looking fuzzy. My Mum was so anxious about 4 weeks ago as the deterioration was so quick so you can inagine her thoughts. Think I will look further into this oxymetre reading of 85 being OK, according to her GP? Was happy for her levels to be good at 95, but poor Mum thought if she took Oxygen she would be able to breath better and do more. Perhape the not sedating medication will be best as Mum also takes x 2 Diazepam at 2mg.

Oxygen isn't given to help with breathing Ruby - it's given when O2 has fallen below (usually) 88%. This is the normal cut-off point. If you are regularly below 88% you risk major organ damage and having supplemental O2 avoids that damage. Having said that, O2 often will help with breathlessness, just not given for that reason.

Also as others have said, some anti-depressants can literally depress the body's breathing mechanism. Worth checking that too, and asking for a medication review since your mum may need a medication change to address her breathing problem.

Thank you will do

I Think the GP will ask Mum to stop taking her x 3 a day 2mg Diazepam and to increase her Mirtrazepam from 15 - 30 at Night. Forgot to mention Mum now has started another tablet called Aminophylline 200mg twice a day to help open her airways. Dont know if anyone else takes this. Oximetre reading was 90 today so way better. Take Care

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