Using a Pulse Oximeter at Home

An at-home pulse oximeter can be effective in tracking oxygen levels and heart rate. Keeping track of blood oxygen levels could be particularly beneficial for those with breathing difficulties or a faster heartbeat. Through consistent use, it could help in saving lives by monitoring blood oxygen and prompt a user to seek medical care.

If you have ever been a patient or a visitor in a hospital, you may have seen a small device attached to the index finger of the patient, keeping track of their vital signs. These types of devices are now available to measure our vital signs at home in-between doctor or hospital visits, which can be extremely useful to monitor blood oxygen levels before or after exercise, or pre and post-operative conditions.

Importantly, to get accurate readings with a pulse oximeter at home, it is essential to understand how to use it correctly for the best results.

Using your Pulse Oximeter in a Home Environment

By following these seven steps, you can learn how to use a pulse oximeter in your own home. Make sure to read the directions that go with your model before you start.

  1. Prepare

It is important to wash and dry your hands thoroughly before having your measurement taken. Additionally, any jewellery or nail decorations such as nail polish or false nails should be removed, as these can affect the accuracy of the reading.

  1. Ensure that your hands are not cold

If your hands are cold, shivering or shaking, it may result in an inaccurate reading. To get a more accurate reading, warm your hands gently to stimulate the flow of blood. This is particularly important for people who suffer from poor circulation.

  1. Have a seat and relax

Allow your body and hand to rest for at least five minutes in a seated position prior to taking the oximeter reading.

  1. Clip on the oximeter

You can secure the device to your finger by clipping it on; it is recommended to use your index finger, although you may also select one of your middle fingers as an alternative if preferred. Make sure that the laser is in contact with the fingernail, ensuring that no artificial nails are present on the nailbed to avoid the risk of false readings.

  1. Turn on the oximeter

Ensure that the device is on, and maintain a steady hand. You can support your hand on, for instance, a chair or table. Keep your hand underneath your heart level, and keep it as still as you can manage for best results.

  1. Finish the reading

You should let the oximeter read for at least 1 minute in order to get accurate results. Allow it to become stable before recording the oxygen saturation reading result.

  1. Take the oximeter off

Once the pulse oximeter screen has shown a stable number, record the result. Then clean the device with a cloth, and store it away for future use.

For the most accurate readings, take your oxygen saturation and heart rate measurements at the same time each day. Make sure to record the date and time in addition to your results in a dedicated journal or log.

The Heart Sure Bluetooth Pulse Oximeter* makes it easy to take your pulse rate and oxygen saturation quickly and reliably, with a single tap of the finger. It has Bluetooth capabilities, allowing you to record your measurements on the free Jumper Health App with recordings saved on your phone for future review by a health provider. Its portability and convenience, make it ideal for monitoring pre- or post-exercise and pre- or post-surgical conditions.

It’s sophisticated algorithm can reduce the impact of movement and enhance the accuracy of measurements with low Perfusion Index (PI). Perfusion Index is a measure of SpO2 device’s sensor site on your finger for the pulse intensity, ranging from 0.2% for very weak pulses to higher values for stronger ones.

For those looking for a more economical and traditional option, without the Bluetooth functionality. The Heart Sure A320 Pulse Oximeter* may be best suited for you. 

Using a pulse oximeter on an infant: Special Considerations

For those children who are below 10 years old and weigh less than 30 kg, a child’s pulse oximeter may be needed to ensure accurate results; however, those who exceed these limits who also have long enough fingers may utilise an adult pulse oximeter1.

In order to take a valid reading for a child or infant, the same process applies discussed above. However, depending on the circumstance, readings might be taken from the toes, ear lobes, hands or feet. It is important to make sure that the child is relaxed and still, in order to achieve accurate results.

Reading Insights

It is important to understand the results of your pulse oximeter, particularly your blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) level and pulse rate, once you have become familiar with its use.

The ideal oxygen saturation level for the majority is between 95% and 100%. People living in higher altitudes or with lung issues may usually have a lower level2. A healthy adult heart rate is usually between 50 to 90 beats per minute (bpm).

Make sure to document your results in a designated space; this can allow you to track any changes in your heart rate or oxygen saturation. If you ever have any low readings or if there is a steady decline, be sure to seek out medical help immediately.

More than ever before, measuring the oxygen saturation level in your blood is vitally important as an early warning sign for those who may require urgent medical care.

When to seek medical care

The Australian Government Department of Health, the US Food and Drug Administration, and the UK have recently cautioned against relying solely on pulse oximetry readings to determine a patient’s wellbeing due to potential inaccuracies3,4,5.

If your blood oxygen is lower than expected, do not panic, but contact a medical professional immediately. In addition, you should seek urgent medical attention if you display additional low oxygen symptoms such as:

  • A bluish tint, especially on the face or nails
  • Experiencing shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • A sensation of tightness or pain in the chest
  • An elevated heart rate
  • An increasing cough
  • A decline in overall health

In conclusion, using a pulse oximeter at home can be a great way to monitor your oxygen saturation level and heart rate. It is important to understand the reading results of your pulse oximeter and document any changes in order to track any potential health issues. If you experience any low readings, if there is a steady decline, or you are experiencing symptoms of low oxygen saturation, it is very important to seek out medical help immediately by contacting your local GP or nurse on call for advice or call 000 in an emergency.

*Always read the label and follow the directions for use. Consult your health professional to evaluate the readings. Refer to product links above for health warnings.

(1) https://www.healthnavigator.org.nz/health-a-z/p/pulse-oximeter-children/
(2) https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/pulseoximeter.html
(3) https://www.tga.gov.au/publication-issue/limitations-pulse-oximeters-and-effect-skin-pigmentation
(4) https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/safety-communications/pulse-oximeter-accuracy-and-limitations-fda-safety-communication#interpretation
(5) https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-use-and-regulation-of-pulse-oximeters-information-for-healthcare-professionals



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