How to Use a Pulse Oximeter - Watsons Health

How to Use a Pulse Oximeter

A pulse oximeter is a small, clip-like device that attaches to a finger, toe, or an earlobe. It provides a painless and reliable way for doctors to measure a person’s blood oxygen levels. A pulse oximeter uses infrared light refraction to measure how well oxygen is binding to your red blood cells.

Pulse oximeters are commonly used in critical care settings such as emergency rooms and hospitals to monitor patients with conditions that can affect oxygen levels in blood. These conditions include:

  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),
  • asthma,
  • lung cancer,
  • anemia,
  • heart attack or heart failure,
  • congenital heart defects, and
  • pneumonia.

Because COVID-19 often causes pneumonia, the use of pulse oximeters in hospitals and even in homes has significantly increased since the pandemic began.

Here are the steps on how to properly use a pulse oximeter:

  1. Turn the pulse oximeter on.
  2. Clip it on the end of your finger, with your nail facing up. The pulse oximeter may not work if you have cold hands, or wear nail polish or artificial nails. To make the pulse oximeter work, warm your hand, remove the nail polish or nail, or try a different finger.
  3. Wait for a few seconds for the results to appear.

The pulse oximeter gives two results: your blood oxygen saturation level (SpO2) and your pulse rate (PR). For most healthy individuals, an oxygen saturation level of 95 percent is considered normal. The normal pulse rate for healthy adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute. Your doctor can help explain the normal numbers for you.

Your doctor may recommend checking your oxygen level twice a day, during exercise, or anytime your symptoms get worse. Write down the results in case you need to show them to your doctor.

Talk to your doctor for more information on how to use a pulse oximeter.

Shop at Watsons for prescription medications and other essential healthcare needs.


References: Accessed 16 September 2021 Accessed 16 September 2021 Accessed 16 September 2021 Accessed 16 September 2021 Accessed 16 September 2021 Accessed 16 September 2021

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