How To Use Oximeters Properly?
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How To Use Oximeters Properly?

Published on Feb 21, 2022 and last reviewed on Dec 14, 2022   -  5 min read


In today’s world, there are an array of health problems that are the primary drivers for the development of health monitoring technologies. This article will contribute some information about the oximeters.

How To Use Oximeters Properly?


COVID-19 is taking its toll on the whole world, causing deaths, illnesses, and economic despair. There are a number of deaths every day due to a lack of oxygen. Monitoring oxygen saturation levels is crucial in people with breathing ailments, but how to keep a check on our oxygen saturation levels? Pulse oximeters do the job. These are the most promising wearable health monitoring devices. It is a non-invasive way of measuring blood oxygen levels. This device was invented by Karl Matthes in 1935. Since their development, these pulse oximeters have undergone various changes and modifications.

What Is Pulse Oximetry?

Pulse oximetry is a test or a procedure that is used to measure the oxygen saturation (oxygen level) of the blood. It measures the oxygen that is sent to different parts of the body from the heart. It is a painless and non-invasive measuring procedure.

What Is Oxygen Saturation?

The red blood cells (RBC) contain hemoglobin that carries oxygen. When hemoglobin is carrying oxygen, it is described as saturated with oxygen.

How Are Pulse Oximeters Placed?

The pulse oximeter is an electronic device that measures the oxygen saturation in your blood. A clip-on device called a probe is attached to the finger or to the ear lobe.

How Does a Pulse Oximeter Work?

The pulse oximeters are composed of a sensor and a monitor with a display. Pulse oximeters have light-emitting diodes which shine two types of red light through the tissue. The sensor on the other side of the tissue picks up the light that is transferred through the tissues. The pulse oximeters can determine which of the hemoglobin is in arterial blood and can determine the SpO2 of the arterial blood in the circulation.

When Do I Need a Pulse Oximeter?

Pulse oximeters are used to measure if there is sufficient oxygen in the blood. It is used

The pulse oximeter is also used for people who have any health illness that affects the blood oxygen levels, like,

Pulse oximeters can also be recommended for any other health conditions by your healthcare professional.

How to Use Pulse Oximeters Properly?

  • The probe should be attached to the finger correctly to ensure the oximeter works correctly. These probes are fragile, so they need to be handled with caution.

  • The probe has to be well-positioned on the finger. The finger should fit well and make sure the probe is not too tight as it can constrict the blood circulation, or if it is loose, it may fall off and let the other light in.

  • Do not move your finger to which the pulse oximeter is attached.

  • Wait a few seconds until the reading stops changing and displays one steady number.

  • Note down the values with the date and time on which oxygen level was measured so that you can keep track of the changes of the values and can report it to your healthcare professional.

Ear Probes:

Ear probes are attached to the ear lobe. In small children, ear probes can also be used on the cheeks.

When Can the Readings From the Pulse Oximeter Be Not Accurate?

  • When the patient is wearing any nail paint or henna.

How Does it Interfere With the Readings of the Pulse Oximeter?

The color can absorb the light that is emitted by the oximeter and interfere with the detection of oxygenated hemoglobin. The oximeter may pick the pulse, but it will not be able to measure the oxygen saturation level as the pigment will block the signal. So it is better to remove the nail paint from the finger on which the device is going to be clipped on.

  • When there is a bright light, such as sunlight falling on the probe, it can interfere with the light detector. This can lead to inaccurate readings.

  • Patients who have inhaled smoke or fire can have a high amount of hemoglobin combined with carbon monoxide. Most of the oximeters cannot detect this and can tend to exaggerate the oxygen saturation level.

What Precautions Should Be Taken When Checking the Oxygen Saturation Levels at Home?

  • When measuring the oxygen saturation levels, check if the oxygen levels are lower than the previous recordings, and if the measurements are decreasing day by day, just do not rely only on the pulse oximeter but do contact your healthcare professional to assess your health condition.

  • While monitoring the oxygen saturation levels, do look for the other signs and symptoms like:

If you notice these symptoms and if these symptoms are getting severe, then do contact your healthcare professional.

What Are the Types of Pulse Oximeters?

There are two categories of pulse oximeters,

  • Prescription Use:

You can get these pulse oximeters only with a prescription. These pulse oximeters are reviewed by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). They are often used in doctor’s offices, hospitals, and sometimes they can be prescribed for home use also.

  • Over-the-counter Oximeters:

These pulse oximeters are sold directly in stores or online. This includes smartphone apps and smartwatches. This has not undergone FDA approval, so it cannot be used for medical purposes.

How Is Pulse Oximeters Useful in This COVID-19 Situation?

If you suspect you have COVID-19, do contact the healthcare professional. Pulse oximeters do help in the diagnosis of COVID-19. During COVID, your oxygen level may be low, so these pulse oximeters will help to measure the oxygen saturation levels.

What Is the Normal Oxygen Saturation Level?

Oxygen saturation values are between 95 % and 100 % for most healthy individuals, but they can be lower for individuals with lung problems. Oxygen saturation levels are slightly lower in those individuals living in higher altitude areas.


In this pandemic crisis, everyone wants to make sure they are healthy, so they try to buy some non-recognized pulse oximeters over the stores and online, which is not even approved by authorities like the FDA. So just do not rely on pulse oximeters. Do contact the healthcare professional if you experience any of the symptoms when it is in a mild state. Ignoring it or home diagnosis can lead to serious adverse effects.

Last reviewed at:
14 Dec 2022  -  5 min read




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