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How to Read and Use Pulse Oximeter?
PHOTO BY Wikimedia Commons
  • After recovering from COVID-19, Divine Lee and her husband, Blake Go, went on YouTube to chronicle what they went through. They even talked about the vitamins and supplements they took, which you can read here. One of the interesting things that Divine shared on the vlog was what her ob-gyn sent: a fingertip pulse oximeter.

    According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, a pulse oximeter is a device or probe that is clipped on to the finger to measure the oxygen level (oxygen saturation) of the blood.

    The pulse oximeter becomes handy for COVID-19 patients who are isolating at home. As we now know, pneumonia is one of the complications of COVID-19. But in the early stages, doctors say, it is possible patients would not know they have it because they do not experience any difficulty breathing. They may not also know the oxygen levels in their blood are dropping.

    That's when the pulse oximeter becomes a handy tool. "You want a number in the 95% to 100% range. If the number drops to 92% or lower, that's a cause for concern. That's generally the level where a doctor might put you on supplementary oxygen and keep you in the hospital for observation," NPR reports.

    What other parents are reading

    So is it time to purchase a pulse oximeter with this pandemic? Is it the thermometer of this time?

    First, keep in mind that pulse oximetry is typically conducted by healthcare providers in a clinic or hospital setting. However, the pandemic has blurred that line a bit because no one wants to be hospitalized unless necessary. A pulse oximeter, which is easy to use, can tell us if anything is wrong with our "respiratory health" and guide us on our next steps.


    You can get a faulty reading, though, especially when the probe isn't clipped on correctly or you made a movement. Dark nail polish can even affect the reading. The World Health Organization has a two-part tutorial on this probe (the second part is 53 pages long) — a reminder that it is still a medical device.

    Many doctors warn that having a pulse oximeter at home may create false sense security. Just because your oxygen level is fine doesn't mean you should ignore that high fever.

    Fingertip pulse oximeters for the home are plenty online. How to choose? According to Wirecutter, which reviews products, check the ones the U.S. Food & Drug Administration cleared for use and have ±3 percent accuracy. The FDA database has 388 oximeters listed (click here to access). 

    What other parents are reading

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