While pulse oximeters are not usually something you think about or ever think you need in your day to day life aside from those annual physical examinations, along with the COVID-19 pandemic, this device has started to be a sought-after item, even getting sold-out in most places. Besides a pulse oximeter, you might want to consider purchasing a thermometer as well.
With that being said, you might have asked yourself if it’s something you should have in your medicine cabinet at home or not so this guide is here to answer that question and explain everything else you need to know about this device, namely what it does and what constitutes a good one that’s worth the investment.
What is a pulse oximeter used for?
Before purchasing a pulse oximeter, it’s important to know what it does to really know just how much use you can get out of this medical device.
It is able to measure your blood’s oxygen content levels, indicating just how much out of oxygen you’re breathing into your lungs actually gets transported to your bloodstream.
Given the fact that COVID-19 infections, especially the ones causing complications lead to breathing problems, it’s not hard to understand why this product has suddenly become so popular among the masses in the last couple of years.
Not to mention it’s quite practical and straightforward so people can use it at home without a medic’s help or supervision.
How does it work?
Once you clip it onto one of your fingertips, it will show your oxygen saturation in a red blood cells carrying oxygen percentage but also your pulse rate.
Usually, patients with preexisting lung conditions or anyone who requires some supplemental oxygen can use an oximeter by themselves at home just to keep the situation in check.
For those who have already been diagnosed with COVID-19 and are recovering in quarantine, it can be really helpful to be able to monitor their oxygen levels and make sure no complications arise.
This way, you can tell if something is wrong early on and can get to the hospital before things become much worse.
Should you buy one?
If reading this, you are still unsure whether this applies to you or not, it’s best to just ask your doctor if you should get one.
This might also help you pick the right one since a specialist is likely to prescribe you a medical-grade oximeter. Otherwise, you can just check out our list of some of the best pulse oximeters on the market and choose the one that suits your needs and situation the best.
While only a few months ago, it was almost impossible to still find a pulse oximeter in stock, nowadays the supplies are starting to catch up with the demand again.
How accurate is it?
Over-the-counter varieties are not FDA approved so they might be slightly less accurate than the ones found in doctor’s offices or in hospitals.
FDA mentions that their accuracy also drops based on certain factors as well, such as having darker skin tones or even if you are wearing nail polish.
Other things that can affect the device’s accuracy are:
– Low blood pressure
– Low body temperature
What is a healthy measurement?
Generally, a normal read should fall in the 98 to 99 percent range and if anything falls below 90 percent, it means something serious might be going on and you should contact your doctor immediately.
What types of pulse oximeters are available?
While there are some which can be attached to the nose, forehead areas, toes and ear, the most accurate readings usually come from clamping them to the middle finger.
How to choose?
The general rule of thumb is to look for pulse oximeters that are labeled “FDA approved” or “for medical use” since those are the most accurate regardless of brand.
You can find them in most drugstores but you can also order them online. This guide provides you with an extensive list of oximeters and links to where you can buy them.
That being said, check out some of the best devices on the market in no particular order and what each of them has to offer!
Zacurate Pro Series 500DL Pulse Oximeter
The 500DL is not the first model developed by this brand so it’s safe to say that they’ve had more than one chance to address some small issues, making for an improved product compared to its predecessors.
This device is both CE & FDA approved and has a large display that can show you a reading in about 10 seconds.
As the most advanced model from this brand, it is also much less susceptible to any inaccuracies in case you move it slightly by mistake and has better ambient light compensation as well.
It is meant for adults but it should be fine for kids over the age of 12 as well as long as their fingers are big enough for the device.
While there is no memory, the AAA batteries it works with can last to up to 40 total hours so you’ll be able to check the readings for a long time since you’d only have to have it turned on for mere seconds at a time.
Finally, it comes with a silicon cover and lanyard!
SantaMedical Generation 2 Fingertip Pulse Oximeter
The SantaMedical Generation 2 Fingertip Pulse Oximeter has a unique auto shut-off feature after 10 seconds.
Furthermore, to make it even easier to use, it only features one button.
It works with AAA batteries.
Innovo Deluxe iP900AP Fingertip Pulse Oximeter
This product is actually available in two models, both of them being pretty accurate and efficient.
With that being said, both also share most of the features such as visual and numeric readouts on an OLED display, with the exception of an alarm feature that the premium does not have.
However, it’s not really essential so don’t let this deter you from picking this device.
At a first glance, this might look just like a chunky ring for your thumb but upon a better look, the discreet display will give away that it is, in fact, a medical device.
Even though it is so small, inside that dark pebble is a rechargeable battery that can provide up to 16 hours of recording!
Furthermore, all the data collected can be to your app or desktop using Bluetooth.
The ring can also be set to vibrate the moment your levels drop under the safe numbers.
This is perhaps a more convenient version of wrist worn alternatives since it’s smaller and can also be used to monitor your sleep – all without having to remove your nail polish for the results to be more accurate!
Contec Finger Tip Pulse Oximeter
This is a very reliable and accurate device, hence the fact that it is FDA approved.
It is suitable for both adults and children and as a bonus, it comes with batteries included!
In addition to it being accurate, this is actually a really easy to use product so you won’t struggle to figure it out even when using it for the first time!
All you have to do is turn it on and put it on. Next thing you know, you’ll get your reading without any extra hassle.
Upon reading your oxygen saturation through a finger sensor, it will show you your blood oxygen saturation level but also your average heart rate.
The batteries are expected to last a total of 24 hours but since the device shuts off automatically after 5 seconds of idle use, it really helps prolong battery life.
Zacurate Pro Series 500DL Fingertip Pulse Oximeter
The Zacurate Pro Series 500DL Fingertip Pulse Oximeter has a hypoallergenic silicone finger chamber and the display it features is great for self reading as well.
Furthermore the battery life is long, lasting for more than 40 hours and the fact that it shuts off automatically within 8 seconds of taking it off your finger helps preserve it.
Just keep in mind that this is suitable for people of ages 12 and up so if you have a younger child and are planning on having them use an oximeter as well, you might want to go for a different option.
Other than that, this product is reliable and accurate and can read both blood oxygen saturation levels and heart rate.
The visual display has a simple and easy to read system so you’ll only need a glance to figure out your stats.
This is because both the numbers face the user which makes it easy to use by yourself at home without anyone else’s help.
It takes about 10 seconds for the readings to show up but it’s good to know that they are within two percent of your levels, something that makes this device really accurate and a standard for the most high quality oximeters on the market.
Furthermore, the 500DL is accurate no matter the external factors such as being in a dark room, indoors with artificial lighting or outdoors with natural lighting.
And since it is made with a medical-grade silicone finger chamber, this device is hypoallergenic which would be ideal if you know you are sensitive to latex.
iHealth Air Wireless Fingertip Pulse Oximeter with Plethysmograph
This smart device is Bluetooth-compatible with the iHealth Myvitals app but it also has an easy to read display thanks to how large and bright it is.
It is also able to store and track multiple and previous results, all safe and easy to access on your phone.
Furthermore, the app will also guide you on how to read your results, letting you know whether or not your oxygen levels are within a normal range or if you should be worried and seek medical help.
Basically, if you are planning on tracking your oxygen levels regularly, this should be one of your first choices in pulse oximeters.
Contec CMS50D OLED Screen Digital Fingertip Pulse Oximeter
This past summer, New York City’s Test & Trace Corps program started distributing Take Care kits to patients diagnoses with COVID-19 or exposed to it and therefore at a risk to contract it.
As it turns out, the kits not only contained medical-grade face masks, hand sanitizer and a thermometer, there was also a pulse oximeter added to the mix and this was the model they chose!
With that being said, it’s safe to assume that Contec CMS50D OLED Screen Digital Fingertip Pulse Oximeter is reliable and accurate and you can purchase it separately!
Apple Watch Series 6
If you are someone who wants a device that is multifunctional, maybe you should just go for an Apple Watch instead of purchasing a pulse oximeter by itself.
After all, the latest model, the Series 6, has a pulse-oximetry feature that you might like a lot!
Of course, it is not exactly medically graded so it’s not clear how accurate it is but if you were already planning on getting yourself an Apple Watch, it’s good to know it also has this feature and you can try it out before deciding to also get a standalone oximeter or not.
Baby & Children Digital Fingertip Pulse Oximeter
While most kids fingertip devices are designed to work starting with the age of 2, this one is perfectly fine for use between the ages of 1 to 12.
And if you are planning on using an oximeter on a child, it’s good to get one specifically designed for them since most adult fingertip readers are too big and can therefore produce some incorrect results as a tiny finger will never get gripped properly by the device.
Unfortunately, your choices are limited if your main concern is your young one but thankfully, the Baby & Children Digital Fingertip Pulse Oximeter is more than good enough!
It works with a 200mAh lithium battery and a Type-C USB recharge connector, making other product that use AAA batteries seem like old tech in comparison.
Finally, the design is fun and colorful, the cartoon penguin/bird being exactly what you might need to convince your kid to keep the device clamped onto their finger for a few seconds.
Garmin Vivoactive 4
People with medical problems are not the only ones who need to monitor their blood oxygen levels – so do athletes, especially mountaineers who have to know whether or not they can cope with the limited oxygen at high altitudes.
With that being said, Garmin’s built-in monitor is more for them since it’s not medical grade but that is not to say that it can’t still provide a useful insight into your health stats such as hydration levels as well as body energy, stress and sleep levels and more!
This watch features a GPS system as well and coaching features that can help with your training.
You can also make contactless payments and it also works as a music player when coupled up to a pair of headphones among other things.
And that’s before you actually pair it with your smartphone! After connecting the two, you’ll be able to do a lot more, making this a really versatile and useful device.
Owlet Smart Sock 2
Not that it matters too much but this product has an elegant design.
Furthermore, it’s more comfortable than other similar devices such as armbands.
It can be used by babies between the ages of 0 and 18 months!
That being said, keep in mind that it is only suitable for the youngest of users, being useless for anyone over 25 lb.
While this might make you feel like it’s not worth it since it has such a short lifespan, in reality, many parents feel like it offers some extra peace of mind and also allows them to move a newborn into their own room a lot sooner without having to worry about their safety.
You also have to charge it every 16 hours or so but thankfully, the charging is really quick.
The set features three socks of increasing sizes, all washable.
As for how they work, they send data from their pulse oximeter to a base station using Bluetooth.
If nothing worrying is going on, the flat puck-like base station will keep glowing green.
When it turns yellow, a nursery rhyme will play on your phone as well and these signs are warnings that something might be going on.
Finally, as you can imagine, if it glows red, there is an emergency and you should check on your baby and contact your doctor immediately.
Aside from the red light, you will also be notified on your phone via an alarm.
This device is especially useful if your little one has already been diagnosed or is at risk of certain afflictions such as sleep apnea.