Breathing rate monitors are a great way to measure the breathing pattern. This post will outline what you need to know about breathing rate monitors and how they work.
- WHAT IS A BREATHING RATE MONITOR?
A breathing rate monitor, also known as a respiratory rate monitor or simply a respiration monitor, is an instrument used to measure and record the speed at which we breathe: this is called our ‘respiration’ or ‘breathing rate’. Respiratory monitors are widely used in medicine, nursing care and other areas where the health of people who need constant monitoring is at risk (e.g., sick babies). Some breathing monitors use infra-red sensors to detect changes in temperature caused by exhaled breaths; others use electrical impedance – for example, electrodes attached to the chest may be able to sense movements between heartbeats that show up as tiny signals on an ECG trace.
- HOW IS IT USED?
Before a respiratory monitor can be used, a person must have an acceptable site on which to attach the sensors. Some monitors may require special gel or paste to be applied to the skin before attaching a sensor, while others simply need sensors attached using adhesive pads or Velcro straps. Most breathing monitors also need choosing and setting up by a health professional before they are ready for use – e.g., choosing appropriate mode(s) of measurement (e.g., tidal volume), deciding what information should be available in ‘real time’ (immediately/instantly), if alarms should sound in case breathing rates become abnormally high or low, etc.
- HOW DO YOU USE ONE?
When a breathing monitor is used, you can either attach the sensors directly to your body or with suitable lead wires attached to the sensors. If wireless respiratory monitoring is an option for you, please ensure that both your health professional and anyone monitoring you are aware of this in case any priority needs to be given in cases of emergency.
- WHO USES IT?
Breathing monitors are widely used in medicine, nursing care and other areas where the health of people who need constant monitoring is at risk (e.g., sick babies). Breathing monitors may also be used when someone needs attention due to conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). People recovering from surgery in high-care wards may have respiratory monitors applied so that nurses can monitor if they are breathing effectively.
- WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
One of the most important benefits of using a respiratory monitor is that it ensures everyone who needs to monitor your breathing can see at a glance what your breathing rate is, without having to disturb you for this information when they need it (and when you might be asleep). Another benefit is that some monitors enable alarms to sound when breathing rates become too low or high – in which case, someone will have access to information that could indicate whether you are in danger before being able to check on you.
- WHAT ARE THE DRAWBACKS?
Although all types of respiratory monitoring provide an objective way of checking breathing patterns, there may still be times when subjective assessments by nursing and medical staff (e.g., whether your breathing sounds strange when you are asleep, etc.) remain necessary. Also, when respiratory monitors sound an alarm because a breathing rate is too low or high, it may be difficult for someone else to judge the significance of the alarm without having some knowledge about what your normal breathing rates are like when you are sleeping normally or how long you have been in this abnormal state.