This article would like to serve as a pulse oximeter guide, clarifying any confusion and answering any questions you may have about their origin, how they work, and all the general information you may need or want to know before using or buying one. The finger pulse oximeter has become drastically more popular and of interest to people since the beginning of this unfortunate pandemic we are living through, COVID-19. However, we would like to make one thing painstakingly clear: normal oxygen levels do not determine whether you are infected with COVID or not – please get tested properly and take all the necessary precautions, even if restrictions are being eased! Choosing a good-quality pulse oximeter is the key to obtaining results with high accuracy; If you are more interested in finding the best pulse oximeters instead of learning about them, you can refer to the following article: The 10 Best Pulse Oximeters | Best Oximeter Reviews.
What Is A Pulse Oximeter?
A pulse oximeter, also known as a blood oxygen monitor, is a small portable device that can be clipped onto the finger, ear, or toe and is used to measure oxygen saturation levels in our blood. The readings are usually determined based on how much oxygen your blood has in relation to the oxygen levels it can have. Most pulse oximeters also measure and display your heart’s pulse rate. The most popular and commonly used version of a pulse oximeter is the finger pulse oximeter; It can often be seen being used in official healthcare settings – such as critical care or emergency departments – and by pulmonologists in their office. Some people suffer from conditions that greatly affect their blood’s oxygen levels or have the potential to catch these conditions, in which case doctors usually recommend they have their own at-home pulse oximeter. As we mentioned before, they have also become increasingly popular for at-home use due to COVID-19, resulting in a huge increase in pulse oximeter sales and interest.
How Does A Pulse Oximeter Work?
Although most people know of pulse oximeters, many of them do not know how exactly it works. To be fair, it is a relatively newer invention and even some medical professionals do not truly understand its inner workings. We will attempt to explain this in the most simple words possible. To measure oxygen saturation levels, a pulse oximeter uses light beams. Hence, the reading is made based on how much light is absorbed by the blood, which of course varies depending on how oxygenated or deoxygenated your blood is in that area. Unlike glucometers (glucose meters), this is a non-invasive and completely painless procedure – which only takes a few seconds, up to a minute!
Who Invented The Pulse Oximeter?
The pulse oximeter is a relatively newer medical invention compared to, say, glucometers – which is why many older medical professionals working currently do not know exactly how it functions! It was invented by Takuo Aoyagi in the early 1970s, whilst he was working as an electrical engineer for a Japanese company. Unfortunately, said the company did not truly understand what Aoyagi had invented and its importance, resulting in other companies officially producing them first.
How Do You Use A Pulse Oximeter?
The process of using a pulse oximeter is extremely easy. Although it may take some time to master the art of using the pulse oximeter, you will definitely catch on quickly with a little practice! There are a few factors that may affect the accuracy of the readings, such as having nail polish or acrylic nails on. A few tips to follow include: use the pulse oximeter before exercising, rest for 5-10 minutes before use, remain completely still, etc. To begin using your pulse oximeter, follow this simple step-by-step guide and watch the magic happen!
1. Clip the device onto your finger, earlobe, or toe (the finger is the easiest and most commonly used method when using a pulse oximeter; if using the finger method, clip it onto your middle or index finger)
2. Place your hand on your chest, or ensure it is at heart-level
3. Do not move, keep the pulse oximeter attached for at least 1 minute (to achieve the most accurate results)
4. Disinfect with an alcohol swab (this is mostly an important step when sharing your pulse oximeter with multiple people)
Understanding Pulse Oximeter Readings
For someone completely new to pulse oximeters, understanding how exactly to read the measurements on the oximeter’s display can be quite confusing. There are two main measurements taken when using a pulse oximeter:
1. Oxygen Saturation Level
The main use of a pulse oximeter, as we explained in this oximeter guide, is to measure the blood’s oxygen saturation (absorption) levels. The numbers to represent this area are between 0-100 and use the indicator of ‘SpO2.’ If the pulse oximeter device is used properly with all affecting factors taken into consideration, it will be able to achieve results with a possible 2% difference inaccuracy. For example, if your pulse oximeter is displaying a result of ’94 SpO2,’ your blood’s actual oxygen saturation levels are between 92-96 SpO2.
2. Heart Pulse Rate
Since pulse oximeters make use of your ‘pulse,’ these devices also display this reading. To pinpoint your heart pulse rate on this device, simply refer to the number indicated by ‘PR BPM’ or ‘HR.’ These two bodily factors (oxygen levels and heart rate) go hand-in-hand. That is, if you have a low heart pulse rate, it will put a strain on your body and increase the effort required to pump blood, often leading to consequences such as fainting (due to your body lacking oxygen).
Why Are Blood Oxygen Levels Important?
Keeping a check on your blood oxygen levels is very important. In the case that they drop too low, it can have dire consequences on your body. In simple words, low oxygen levels will cause a higher level of strain on your body and organs to pump blood all around. Although low blood oxygen levels for a short period of time will not cause harm, experiencing prolonged periods of low blood oxygen saturation will damage your cells and tissue. The kind of damage experienced due to low blood oxygen levels has a domino effect. That is, due to the cells and tissue damage, there will be a larger strain on your heart and brain, further resulting in a deterioration of bodily functions.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What is the easiest way to check blood oxygen levels?
The easiest and most convenient way to check blood oxygen levels is by using a pulse oximeter that attaches to your finger.
2. What is the best position to be in when using a pulse oximeter?
It is best to sit as still as possible, with your legs straight out in front of you.
3. Why can’t I use an oximeter after exercise?
Your blood oxygen levels fall whilst exercising, which would hinder the accuracy of the pulse oximeter’s readings.
4. Are pulse oximeters safe?
Pulse oximeters are indeed safe.
5. What are the side effects of using a pulse oximeter?
There are no such ‘side effects of using a pulse oximeter. Some things you may experience due to improper use or prolonged wearing of pulse oximeters are skin redness, discoloration, sensitivity, temporary numbness, etc.