The Pulse Oximeter - a long time, trusted tool used by medical professionals in hospitals and office settings alike. Now, they are more popular than ever as an everyday home device. What is a pulse oximeter? How do pulse oximeters work? And how can you get the most out of your pulse oximeter device?
What Is A Pulse Oximeter?
A pulse oximeter is a small, clip-like device that measures how much oxygen is in your blood, as well as your pulse. It is fast and non invasive, therefore being the preferred way by most to test oxygen saturation levels, over a blood test.
How Does A Pulse Oximeter Work?
To measure your blood oxygen level (SpO2,) the pulse oximeter shines a beam of light through the skin (usually of your fingertip or earlobe.) It then calculates what percentage of your blood is carrying oxygen by measuring how the light is absorbed. Pulse oximeters can rapidly detect even small changes in oxygen levels. These levels show how efficiently blood is carrying oxygen around your body, in particular the extremities - including your arms and legs.
How To Use A Pulse Oximeter
Pulse oximeters are very user friendly and easy to use. To take a reading you will:
- Turn on the device
- Place the probe on your finger, with your nail facing upwards
- Keep the device on until a reading appears (this usually takes a few seconds)
- Remove the probe and turn off the device
The pulse oximeter will give you two results - your blood oxygen level (spO2) and your pulse rate (PR.) Consult your doctor as to what levels are normal for you, and how often to take a reading.
Not Getting A Result? Pulse Oximeter Troubleshooting
There are some factors that can affect the accuracy of a pulse oximeter reading or disrupt it altogether. If you experience problems, try the following:
- Make sure the probe has been fitted properly - not overstretched. Do not place the probe on a thumb, large finger or large toe. The earlobe can be another suitable place to fit the probe if needed
- Warm up your hand prior to taking a reading
- Remove jewellery, nail polish or artificial nails on the test area
- Minimise movement while the reading is being taken
- Minimise any external bright light from shining on the probe while the reading is being taken
Is My Blood Oxygen Level (SpO2) Normal?
For healthy people, an SpO2 reading of 95%-100% is considered normal. People with chronic health conditions may have normal levels slightly lower than 95%, in which their doctor will let them know what SpO2 reading to expect. In general, if your SpO2 drops below 95% you should contact your doctor.
Should I Buy A Pulse Oximeter?
Pulse oximeters are extremely easy to use, convenient and do not require specialist medical knowledge to operate. Since the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, pulse oximeters have become increasingly popular as people want to monitor their Covid-19 infection status. Having a low level of oxygen in the blood is an early sign of worsening Covid-19. Many health professionals have expressed concern that pulse oximeters will continue to be difficult to access as case numbers continue to accelerate. In light of this, we believe that now is a good time for every household to make a pulse oximeter part of their standard health care/first aid kit.
Health professionals also recommend pulse oximeters to people who:
- Have heart problems
- Have respiratory problems, especially COPD, asthma or pneumonia
- Spend large amounts of time at high altitudes
- Experience rapidly decreasing oxygen levels whilst exercising
One clinically validated, medical-grade, TGA approved device is the iHealth AIR Wireless Fingertip Pulse Oximeter. The iHealth AIR PO3M pulse oximeter is trusted by medical professionals not only in Australia, but all over the world due to its accuracy, reliability and durability.
(FitTrack Australia recommends consultation with your healthcare provider for advice on the suitability of pulse oximeters for your personal health needs. Home pulse oximeter use does not replace professional medical consultation or advice from your doctor or health care provider.)