Monday, April 26

Given that low oxygen is a symptom of low iron, here's the third thing Indian doctors should do

The first two things are administering the antioxidant vitamins E and C, as I explained in this post. While waiting for the oxygen tanks to show up, those two vitamins and in particular E should be given in massive doses to Covid sufferers who are having trouble breathing. 

Yet given that low oxygen is a red flag that a person can be chronically low in iron, the doctors should next give iron intravenously and do so immediately. They can test later for iron levels but in an emergency situation, just go ahead and plug iron into the Covid patient who is having trouble breathing.  

How much iron?  I don't know about IV administration but if I recall 45 mg is the 'safe' daily limit for oral ingestion of iron, although fairly recent research has shown that iron is better absorbed if it's taken every other day, not daily.      

All this said, I don't know how fast IV iron can raise the oxygen level, but I do know that the oxygen-saving action of E is virtually immediate, and with somewhat less assurance I think it's about the same for powdered Vitamin C.  So the beauty of E and C is that patients don't have to be admitted to the hospital before they can be treated with the vitamins. It can be done in the ambulance or while the person is lying on the ground outside the hospital waiting for a bed.  

As I noted in an earlier post, the only problem with E is that unlike C, it won't be absorbed unless it's administered along with some fat. Any kind of fat -- including butter, ghee, vegetable oil, or fatty cheese or fish, meat, etc.  This presents an obstacle for ambulance and ER personnel who'd be able to administer E even before the person is admitted to the hospital. 

The workaround I suggested was piercing E gel caps and squeezing the oil into vegetable oil, then pouring the oil down the person's throat if he's too sick to be spoon fed the stuff. There could be better solutions but that's the one I came up with on the fly.  

Now.  I want to show you a list of seven symptoms. Each symptom description is accompanied by a brief explainer but I'm omitting that. 

Covid Symptoms: Facing difficulty in breathing? These 7 symptoms indicate that your oxygen levels are down:

1. Breathlessness

2. High fever

3. Frequent coughing

4. High blood pressure

5. Restlessness

6. Chest pain

7. Confusion

If the short-tempered ones yell, 'Is this Covid or low oxygen they're talking about?'

The author is talking about both

In other words, people who are chronically low in iron would be particularly vulnerable to the deadliest aspect of the Covid virus.  So I find it a tragic irony that the author of the above list is an Indian writing for an Indian publication, and on April 23 -- as Indian Covid patients were suffocating while waiting for oxygen. But he doesn't make the connection, and obviously neither have doctors all around the world who've been treating Covid. 

Those doctors, and the public health agencies they listen to, are chasing a virus when they should first and foremost target the most deadly symptom of Covid, which is low oxygen. Vitamins E and C are stopgap measures; they don't cure low oxygen, but iron can. There are reasons other than low iron that can be responsible for the condition, but given the circumstances with the Indian Covid patients who have breathing difficulties, chronic low iron should be the first suspect.   

Here is an plain-English explainer from the top-flight Cleveland Clinic about the difference between hypoxia and hypoxemia along with a discussion of treatments for them. Note that the clinic's list includes a few symptoms not on the above one, but those can also indicate Covid infection.  

See also: What to expect from an iron infusion


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