28 Mar

Pulse Oximeters: Everything You Need To Know About The Latest Home Health Gadget

A pulse oximeter, or ‘pulse ox’ for short, is a plastic clip on device that you often see hospital patients wearing on their finger – so why would you want to have one at home?

A pulse oximeter help assess your breathing by measuring the oxygen saturation of arterial blood, which usually indicates how much oxygen is getting to your organs. It also measures your heart rate.

Common conditions where a pulse oximeter can help

Pulse oximeters are useful for people who have various conditions eg respiratory or cardiovascular conditions, that affect oxygen saturation.

Your oxygen saturation can drop for many common reasons, including:

  • Infections such as pneumonia, COVID-19
  • Diseases such as asthma, emphysema, lung cancer
  • Heart disease, or a history of heart attacks
  • Allergic reactions
  • Severe snoring or sleep apnoea

A sleep specialist might recommend a pulse oximeter to monitor your night-time oxygen saturation level if they suspect sleep apnea or severe snoring.

Pulse oximeters are particularly useful during COVID-19 infection, especially if you have asthma and are concerned about COVID’s impact on your lungs.

Some doctors use pulse oximetry to assess the safety of physical activity in people with cardiovascular or respiratory problems or may recommend that a person wears a pulse oximeter while exercising. A doctor may also use pulse oximetry as part of a stress test.

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What pulse oximeter reading is ‘normal’?

Pulse oximeters work by shining a light through say your finger – one side of the clip shines the light, and the other side of the clip detects it.

Normal oxygen saturation levels are between 95-100%. Anything below 95% may require you to seek further medical, or even emergency advise. What you need to do will depend on your circumstances so always listen to your healthcare professional’s advice.

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