Want to Buy a Pulse Oximeter? Wirecutter, a New York Times Company that reviews and recommends products, suggests starting with the Food and Drug Administration’s 510(k) Premarket Notification Database and searching for “oximeter.” (From The New York Times article: What's a Pulse Oximeter, and Do I Really Need One at Home? By Tara Parker-Pope, April 24, 2020.). At a glance: Best overall: Zacurate Pro Series 500DL Fingertip Pulse Oximeter. Pulse oximeter fingertip with Plethysmograph and Perfusion Index, Portable Blood Oxygen Saturation Monitor for Heart Rate and SpO2 Level, O2 Monitor Finger for Oxygen,Pulse Ox,Oximetro, (Black-White) 4.7 out of 5 stars 2,511. 99 ($22.99/Count) Get it as soon as Mon, Mar 22.
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If you have a symptom of shortness of breath or a known lung or heart condition, your doctor may recommend use of a pulse oximeter. The pulse oximeter, or Pulse Ox,is an electronic device that measures the saturation of oxygen carried in your red blood cells. Pulse oximeters can be attached to your fingers, forehead, nose, foot, ears or toes. The device may then be reused or disposed of. If using this in a home setting, you should ask your healthcare provider before disposing of a pulse ox device, as it can be expensive and is reusable.
In February 2021, the Food and Drug Administration issued an alert on limitations of pulse oximeters. If you have poor circulation, dark skin pigmentation, thick skin, currently use tobacco, your skin temperature is cool, or you are wearing dark fingernail polish, long, artificial nails or if your fingers are not clean, the pulse oximeter may give inaccurate or inconsistent readings. This is why the numbers from a pulse oximeter should not be used in isolation to determine your state of health. It is important to share readings that are abnormal or inconsistent with your healthcare provider.
Read about COVID-19 and pulse oximetry in our Each Breath Blog: Pulse Oximetry – A Little Knowledge can be a Dangerous Thing.
What to Expect?
If working accurately, you can expect a simple, quick and safe measure of the oxygen saturation level in your body. The probe will be positioned and within a few seconds, the oximeter will provide a readout of your heart rate and your oxygen saturation level, as in the picture above. There are no needles and no pain involved in oximetry measurement. Some hospitals also use disposable tape probes that wrap around your finger, nose or toe.
The pulse oximeter uses a cold light source that shines a light through the fingertip, making the tip appear to be red. By analyzing the light from the light source that passes through the finger, the device is able to determine the percentage of oxygen in the red blood cell.
Understanding the Results
The pulse oximeter observes a rapid measurement of oxygen saturation level in your body without using needles or taking a blood sample. The measured amount shown on the screen reflects the saturation of your red blood cells with oxygen. This number gives your doctors and nurses an idea of what your treatment will be. The oxygen level may also help to determine if you need to receive supplemental oxygen. This saturation number (a good number would be over 90-92%) differs from a value called the pO2 (a good number would be over 60-65) which is measured by obtaining blood from an artery. Your doctor can clarify the significance of your value related to your particular situation.
Should I Buy An Oximeter
What Are the Risks?
There are no known risks or dangers of using a pulse oximeter when the values are reviewed and monitored by a competent health professional.
Page last updated: February 22, 2021
The Pros and Cons of Using a Pulse Oximeter
Are you getting enough oxygen when you breathe?
Whenever I go into my doctor's office for a checkup, they put a little clip on my finger. It looks like a thick clothespin or something you would use to secure a bag of chips. Within a few seconds, some numbers pop up.
That device is called a pulse oximeter. It measures heart rate and blood oxygen levels. It works by shining a light on the area being measured and calculating the percentage of oxygen in red blood cells, also known as oxygen saturation.
Red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to your organs. A normal range for most healthy people is between 95 and 100 percent. However, medical conditions can lower that number. If you have asthma, anemia, are experiencing an allergic reaction, COPD, emphysema, pneumonia, have sleep apnea or are going through cancer treatments your number can be lower. Smoking and vaping can bring that number down as well.
A low reading can also be an early warning sign you're getting sick. A level of 92 percent indicates a condition known as hypoxemia. That may mean you're not getting enough oxygen to keep your cells and your body healthy. Readings below 90 percent are considered abnormally low and may indicate a clinical emergency.
Consistently low readings indicate your body is working harder than it should, and in extreme cases can cause permanent damage to organs. If a medical professional documents regular readings below 88%, medicare will pay for oxygen therapy and oxygen equipment.
In the last few years, the price of pulse oximeters has dropped so significantly, you can now pick up a reasonably reliable one for around $30. That means you can track your oxygen levels at home, whenever you want.
There are some benefits to home monitoring.
People who aren't sleeping well could wear one overnight. Microsoft edge chromium download link. A drop or multiple drops in oxygen levels could indicate sleep apnea or severe snoring.
Anyone taking drugs that affects breathing can use one to learn if there's a problem. Regular monitoring can also alert people to chronic respiratory or cardiovascular conditions. Then doctors can decide if supplemental oxygen is necessary.
Do masks prevent you from getting enough oxygen?
I decided to get one to answer a question many of my clients have. Since wearing a mask is currently required while training, I wanted to make sure everyone was getting enough oxygen during their workout.
I started with my trainers. I asked them to take their reading before and after an intense cardio session. We used different thicknesses and types of masks, including one session with a fitted N95 respirator. The results surprised me.
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With 10 different sessions, the average drop in oxygen levels was less than 1%. In two people, the oxygen levels increased in the final reading. Keep in mind that the accuracy of these devices can vary by 2%. So in practical terms, there was no statistical change after 30 minutes of intense cardio, even though they were breathing through a mask.
The results I obtained, cannot be used as a benchmark for everyone. The testing wasn't done under rigorous clinical conditions, we had no control group and the sample size was too small. The value was the information provided to those involved in the test. After going over results with a doctor, they felt reassured their mask wearing workouts weren't hurting them.
Anyone that's concerned about oxygen deprivation from wearing a mask, should definitely consider testing themselves with a pulse oximeter. If for no other reason than to put your mind at ease.
If you're considering monitoring yourself, you need to be aware of several issues.
If your fingernails are too long, your fingers may not fit properly in the machine and you'll get a bad result. Dark nail polish and dirty fingers can also cause inaccurate readings. Testing on someone with darker skin can over-estimate the reading if the actual number is below 80%. Test where skin color is lightest.
Medical issues can create false readings. High levels of carbon monoxide can throw the readings off. People suffering from smoke inhalation, heavy cigarette smokers and someone with carbon monoxide poisoning shouldn't use a pulse oximeter.
Someone suffering from anemia or anyone with blood volume deficiencies like hypovolemia, hypotension and hypothermia may not get accurate readings. High levels of methemoglobin, a form of hemoglobin that does not carry oxygen can also cause problems.
Testing on anyone with cold hands or in a cold environment can be challenging. The same is true if you're testing around particularly bright lights. Since a pulse oximeter uses light to get the reading, really bright lights could interfere.
What fingers to use.
Health technicians typically place the device on the index fingers. One clinical study showed the highest reading came from the third finger on the dominant hand. That means right handed people should use the middle finger on the right hand and left handed people should use the middle finger on the left hand. Whichever finger works best you should continue to use so your results are consistent.
Don't just buy a pulse oximeter and blindly believe the results. If you want to use one, ask your doctor if using one might be beneficial for you. Check to see if you have underlying conditions that would make the results invalid. If your doctor recommends one, ask about the best way to use it in your particular situation.
Wearing a pulse oximeter after an intense cardio session.
Want to Buy a Pulse Oximeter?
Wirecutter, a New York Times Company that reviews and recommends products, suggests starting with the Food and Drug Administration’s 510(k) Premarket Notification Database and searching for “oximeter.”
(From The New York Times article: What's a Pulse Oximeter, and Do I Really Need One at Home? By Tara Parker-Pope, April 24, 2020.)
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