Using a Pulse Oximeter

First, it is important to note that all of the pulse oximeters available through this website are not intended to replace an accurate assessment and reading from a qualified physician.  These pulse oximeters, while accurate, are designed to allow individuals the opportunity to monitor their own blood oxygen saturation levels and pulse rates in a non-professional and non-critical environment.

A pulse oximeter is a delicate piece of equipment that measures both oxygen saturation in the blood and pulse rates.  Oxygen saturation in the blood, which is commonly referred to as blood oxygenation, is measured on a percentage.  A single haemoglobin molecule in the blood can carry a maximum of four molecules of oxygen.  Pulse oximeters are designed to measure the percentage of oxygen molecules which are being carried by each haemoglobin molecule.  A normal reading of oxygen saturation in the blood typically ranges from 95-100%.  However, certain medical conditions and health related variables can reduce the threshold of a normal reading to as low as 90%.  To determine what a normal blood oxygen level is for yourself, it is best to consult a physician.

The heart rate, or pulse rate, is determined by a pulse oximeter by measuring the expansion and contraction of blood vessels with each heartbeat.  Nearly all oximeters on the market that measure blood oxygen also measure heart rates.  Combined, this data is especially useful for athletes, those monitoring themselves that have health conditions and of course by medical professionals.

The majority of pulse oximeters are attached to a finger, which is typically the index finger.  To obtain an accurate reading, it is important to be aware of certain conditions that may exist which distort readings.  To obtain an accurate reading, the finger to which the pulse oximeter is attached should be free from nail polish.  Black nail polish, for example, can prevent accurate readings.  If the subject has cold hands and fingers, this too can prevent an accurate reading.  Providing that neither of the aforementioned conditions exist, to obtain an accurate measurement the pulse oximeter must be securely clipped onto the finger.

While the cost of pulse oximeters has fallen in recent years, their availability should never replace an accurate reading in a professional medical office with qualified physicians overseeing the treatment of a patient.  Self monitoring pulse oximeters are used not only for those monitoring their own blood oxygen and heart rate levels, but athletes in training, pilots in high altitudes and other applications.

It is our hope that reading this page will give you an overview of how pulse oximeters are used and what it is that they are actually measuring.  While the information we supply here is general in nature, any new oximeter you purchase will come with a unit specific users manual.  It is important to spend the time necessary to read the owners manual so that you can obtain the most accurate readings from your equipment.

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