Preventive Health Checkup

The Basics of How to Read the Oximeter

Last updated on October 20th, 2022 at 09:11 am

How to read the oximeter? Oximeters are small, portable devices that measure the amount of oxygen in a person’s blood. They are often used by people who have heart problems or lung diseases.

How to read the oximeter?

Oximeters use infrared light to measure oxygen levels in the blood. They work by shining a light through an artery, usually on the wrist, and measuring how much light is absorbed by hemoglobin.

In this article, we will share with you the knowledge of how to read the oximeter.

Learn How to Read Digital the Oximeter?

An oximeter is a small device that typically clips on to your finger, toe, or earlobe to measure oxygen levels in the blood. 

You can purchase a home oximeter either online or from a medical supply company or pharmacy. Most models made for in-home use are inexpensive and easy to use. Simply attach the pulse oximeter probe to your finger and wait until the LED screen shows your Sp02. It should only take a couple of seconds. The pulse oximeter will also measure and display your heart rate. Record your daily Sp02 readings in a health journal or on a piece of paper later to show your health care provider. This way, she can determine if your oxygen flow rate is meeting your needs during all of your activities.

How to Read the Pulse Oximeter?

Pulse oximetry is a quick and easy way to determine how well oxygen is being sent from the heart and lungs out to the furthest parts of the body, which can help determine if your heart and lungs are functioning properly. Pulse oximeters can gauge warning signs for chronic lung or heart conditions and may help determine whether you should seek medical attention and for medical attention for recent coronavirus infection. 

It’s important to know your oxygen saturation level if you have a health condition that affects how much oxygen is in your blood. When your blood oxygen level is low, the cells and tissues of your body have less oxygen. This can negatively affect all your bodily functions. It can also put a strain on your heart and your brain.

Here’s what you need to know about what exactly a pulse oximeter measures, how it works, and how you can use it properly. 

What Does A Pulse Oximeter Measure? 

A pulse oximeter measures the oxygen saturation of your blood. Essentially, this percentage is a calculation of how much oxygen is in the blood, with 100% being ‘fully saturated’ and the optimal level. 

And while this simple non-invasive medical tool is available over the counter in many pharmacies and online stores, it’s unnecessary for most people. “Unless you have a chronic heart or lung condition that affects your oxygen saturation regularly, most individuals don’t need one in their home”.

Those with lung or heart conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or heart failure may be prescribed home oxygen therapy by their doctor, and a pulse oximeter can help them monitor whether the use of oxygen at home is improving their condition or not.

Pulse Oximeter for Covid Patients

Pulse oximeters have also been used to show severe cases of COVID-19. That’s because the coronavirus can cause a decrease in blood oxygen levels, though if this occurs, it’s likely that you’ll recognize other symptoms before needing to use a pulse oximeter. Some doctors say that oxygen saturation by itself is often not the best indicator of medical conditions, and other symptoms are just as important to tell your doctor. 

Warning Signs of Low Oxygen Saturation

Warning signs of low blood oxygen levels may include;

  • Increased heart rate
  • increased breathing rate
  • Feeling shortness of breath or gasping for air
  • Inability to do an activity that you did before without getting out of breath

For everyday health, you shouldn’t rely on pulse oximeter readings alone. The oximeter numbers are only estimates of your blood oxygen levels and they should be taken in context. 

Oxygen Saturation Level in Oximeter

According to the WHO, a reading of 95% to 100% on the pulse oximeter is healthy and isn’t a cause for concern. 

If you have no underlying medical conditions, your levels should be at 95 or higher. But for people with chronic conditions, it’s important to talk with your doctor about what the reading should be for you, and when you should seek medical attention. Lower levels of blood oxygen saturation may show: 

  • Blocked airways
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Lung infection
  • Poor blood circulation 
  • Drug interference from anesthesia, muscle relaxants, or anaphylaxis

In addition, if your pulse oximeter reading drops during exercise, it can be a sign of an underlying lung or heart condition and you should speak with your doctor. 

Pulse Rate in Oximeter

Your blood is not stagnant in your veins. Therefore, it is nearly impossible to time a pulsed light with your heart rate to determine your blood oxygen saturation. Instead, a pulse oximeter uses a steady stream of light to measure absorption and a sophisticated calculation to measure the “pulsed absorbance” while filtering out interference from muscle, tissue, and fingernail. Since it only measures oxygen absorption during blood flow, it reads a pulse rate besides oxygen saturation.

The pulse oximeter is a small diagnostic tool that is predominantly used to identify the one’s oxygen saturations, but it will also show the pulse rate. 

Normal Pulse Rate
  • Infant (1 Month – 1Year): 100 -190
  • Toddler (1 Year to 2 Years): 98 – 140
  • Pre-School (3Years to 5Years): 80 – 120
  • 6Years to 11Years: 75 – 118
  • 12Years and above: 60 – 100
  • Athlete : 40 – 60

PI Value in Oximeter

Perfusion Index or PI is the ratio of the pulsatile blood flow to the non-pulsatile static blood flow in a patient’s peripheral tissue, such as a fingertip, toe, or earlobe. Perfusion index shows the pulse strength at the sensor site. The PI’s values range from 0.02% for the very weak pulse to 20% for an extremely strong pulse. The perfusion index varies depending on patients, physiological conditions, and monitoring sites. Because of this variability, each patient should establish his own “normal” perfusion index for a location and use this for monitoring.

Perfusion index is normally monitored with pulse oximeters. PI is also a good indicator of the reliability of the pulse oximeter reading. For most pulse oximeters for general use, the reading is unreliable or unavailable if PI is at or below 0.4%. Most people that use an oximeter at home would not need a perfusion index indicator because they are considered being in good health.

How to Use Digital Oximeter for Better Result?

To get the most accurate reading from your pulse oximeter, there needs to be enough blood flow to the hand and finger wearing the device. This means the best reading occurs when your hand is warm, relaxed, and below the level of your heart.

Most oximeters are reasonably accurate, giving you a reading of 2% over or 2% under what your saturation would be if measured by an arterial blood gas study. A reading may be less accurate, however, if any of the following apply;

  • If you have poor circulation and/or icy hands,
  • If you wear nail polish or artificial nails
  • If you’re shivering or your hands are trembling,
  • If you have heart arrhythmias,
  • If you smoke
  • If you have black skin,

An inaccurate pulse oximetry reading can be misleading and alarming. To get the best reading possible, consider the following tips;

  • Make sure the probe is functioning properly and that it’s fastened to the finger.
  • If you’re having difficulty getting a reading, try another finger or the opposite hand.
  • Warm your hands by placing them inside a warm towel, or under warm, running water.
  • Remove nail polish or artificial nails.
  • Don’t smoke.

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