Perhaps the best place to start is to explain what a pulse oximeter is and how it works.
A pulse oximeter measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. Technically, it measures the oxygen saturation level or SpO2, which should be between 95% and 99%.1
It’s a small device that usually clips onto your finger and passes light through one side of your finger onto a light detector on the other side. As it passes through your finger, the light hits your blood cells and reacts differently to the cells carrying oxygen, compared to the cells not carrying oxygen. Basically, it measures the colour of blood, which is brighter red when there is more oxygen in it.2
Sophisticated technology inside the pulse oximeter then calculates and displays the SpO2 or oxygen level.
If you’re looking to purchase a pulse oximeter for home use, the best advice would be to buy a device from a reputable Australian supplier. That’s because devices sold here are required to be listed in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). In order to be included in this TGA Register, the device must meet current minimum “state of the art” design and performance standards. The Heart Sure A320 Pulse Oximeter is the #1 Pulse Oximeter Brand in Australian Pharmacy.3
Things are slightly different in the US, there are two levels of pulse oximeters – prescription grade and OTC grade (Over The Counter). Prescription grade devices are tested by the FDA (The Federal Drug Administration), the equivalent of our TGA. The OTC grade models are not tested, so accuracy is unknown. It is always best to buy local and ensure that the device you are purchasing meets the minimum standards in your country.
However, even with a reputable device such as the Heart Sure A320, there are some precautions you should take to ensure you’re getting an accurate reading each time.
According to the American Thoracic Society, accuracy can be impacted by the following conditions:5
In summary, if you use a pulse oximeter from a reputable company, and avoid the mistakes above, you can feel confident you’re getting an accurate picture of your oxygen levels. Check out the leading Heart Sure device here.
Always read the label and follow the directions for use. Consult your health professional to evaluate the readings.