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Last modified on August 25th, 2020
• Respiratory illnesses cause blood oxygen levels to fall
• A pulse oximeter measures the amount of oxygen saturating a person’s blood
• Pulse oximeters are easy to use. A scan takes just a few seconds.
• Pulse oximeters are placed on a fingertip and return a person’s heart rate and blood oxygen levels.
Everyone has become more aware of medical equipment these days, as the coronavirus shows no signs of going away as we head into May.
Items of personal protective equipment, like face masks and gloves, have become scarce. Disinfectants are also a challenge to find, as are diagnostic devices as simple as the home thermometer.
Lately, another type of diagnostic tool has been flying off the shelves.
Used by athletes and medical professionals to monitor the level of oxygen in the bloodstream, humble the pulse oximeter’s time has come.
What is a pulse oximeter?
Although the name might be daunting, a pulse oximeter has a straightforward purpose. A pulse oximeter is a small medical device that quickly and painlessly measures your heart rate and your blood’s oxygen saturation percentage.
Oxygen saturation needs to be between 95% and 100%. Any reading below 92% merits a consultation with a doctor. Pulse oximeters can be placed on a finger, toe, or ear. Many are powered by batteries and show results on a tiny screen in just a few seconds.
People who are hospitalized often have a pulse oximeter bandaged to a finger and connected to a whole-body monitoring system, which is common for those hospitalized.
Getting a reading of a person’s levels of blood oxygen is a quick way to ensure that the lungs are working efficiently, as well as making sure that tissues are getting the oxygen they need.
How do pulse oximeters work?
Pulse oximeters shine a powerful light through the skin and tissues, measuring the color of red blood cells precisely.
Blood cells that are rich with oxygen are bright red, while oxygen-depleted cells are much darker. The oximeter calculates the percentage of bright red oxygenated blood cells to that of deoxygenated cells and returns a result.
A result of 98% would mean that 98% of a person’s blood cells are oxygenated. Pulse oximeters also measure a person’s pulse.
Pulse oximeters available for consumer use take a reading, then shut themselves off after several seconds. Unlike models used in a hospital, they don’t monitor blood oxygen continuously.
Why are pulse oximeters in demand?
The coronavirus attacks the respiratory system and makes it hard for the lungs to get sufficient oxygen into the bloodstream.
Low levels of oxygen harm the body on a cellular level, as well as doing damage to vital organs. Typically, when a person experiences low oxygen levels, they experience subjective feelings of distress.
Plainly said, low oxygen levels cause pain, which prompts a person to seek help.
But several physicians caring for COVID-19 patients have observed that people suffering from dangerously low levels of oxygen are not experiencing the distress that’s common to a respiratory disorder.
Normally, a major drop in oxygen saturation causes significant physical symptoms that prompt people to seek help.
That doesn’t happen in coronavirus as consistently as in other disorders.
Instead, people with COVID-19 experience “silent hypoxia,” a symptomless condition of depleted blood oxygen that can lead to permanent organ damage or death.
Monitoring one’s blood oxygen levels could then be a way to be on the lookout for low oxygen levels.
If one were to monitor their blood oxygen levels daily, it might help identify the presence of the coronavirus and allow people to get treatment early on in the disease’s progression.
Pick the Best Pulse Oximeters On Amazon
It’s important to note that many pulse oximeters for sale on the internet are not FDA-approved for medical uses.
In most situations, these oximeters designed for athletic use would still serve your needs or home use, but if you’re looking for an oximeter that’s purpose-built for monitoring your blood oxygen as a health device, consider purchasing one that’s FDA approved for medical uses.
The following are some of the highest-rated FDA approved models on Amazon.
Best Pulse Oximeter on Amazon #1
- This reliable, accurate pulse oximeter can determine your SpO2 which is your blood oxygen saturation level, as well as your pulse strength and rate in 10 seconds
- The Zacurate is the only LED pulse oximeter that reads and displays up to 100% for SpO2
- Has a silicon cover to protect the device from damage and dirt
- Comes with a 12-month warranty as well as US-based technical support
Best Pulse Oximeter on Amazon #2
- Determines blood oxygen saturation levels, pulse strength and pulse rate in five seconds
- Large LED, back lit display is easy to read on this fingertip pulse oximeter
- Lightweight, portable design
- Can be used by athletes such as bikers and skiers
- Takes a reading of blood oxygen saturation level and pulse rate in 10 seconds
- Multidirectional, large display can be rotated with four different layout options
- Can be operated continuously for more than 30 hours with 2 AAA batteries
- Designed to be used for home use and also by athletes
- Soft ring sensor that stays on your finger comfortably
- Free app called the Vihealth App that shows the trends of your blood oxygen saturation
- Continuously monitors and records blood oxygen level as well as heart rate and motion
- A vibration feature will let you know if your blood oxygen level drops to a level considered too low