How Does A Pulse Oximeter Work?

A pulse oximeter is an easy-to-use, non-invasive device that helps you monitor your blood oxygen levels and pulse rate in the comfort of your own home.

How Does a Pulse Oximeter Work?

A pulse oximeter clips painlessly onto your finger. Inside the pulse oximeter, there is a light source and a light detector. When you hit the button on your pulse oximeter, the device sends red and infrared light through your finger.

Hemoglobin is a protein molecule that exists inside your red blood cells. Hemoglobin carries oxygen and carbon dioxide around the body. The light detector inside the pulse oximeter senses how much red light and how much infrared light is absorbed as the light passes through your finger and your red blood cells.

Oxygenated hemoglobin absorbs more infrared light, while deoxygenated hemoglobin absorbs more red light. The sensor inside a pulse oximeter uses the ratio of red light to infrared light (after the light passes through your finger) to measure your blood oxygen saturation levels.

This sounds complicated, but there is no effort or pain for you and the reading takes only seconds!

Should I Have a Pulse Oximeter?

Pulse oximetry readings may be recommended by your doctor if you have a condition that affects your heart rate or blood oxygen levels, or if you are an athlete who participates in high-intensity exercise (or exercise at high elevations).

Additionally, due to COVID-19, some doctors are recommending that everyone keep a pulse oximeter in their home to keep an eye on their blood oxygen saturation levels. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and the virus can affect your blood oxygen levels - sometimes causing your blood oxygen levels to drop suddenly.

If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or suspect you may have COVID-19, it's a good idea to monitor your blood oxygen levels on a regular basis, even if you are not experiencing symptoms. If you notice a drop in your blood oxygen saturation, contact your doctor immediately for assistance.

Please be aware that normal blood oxygen levels can look different for people depending on your elevation, health conditions, and other factors. Before using your pulse oximeter, talk to your doctor about what normal blood oxygen saturation levels should look like for you.

How Can I Get The Best Reading?

While the pulse oximeter is incredibly easy to use, we do have some tips to help you get the best - and most accurate – measurement possible.

  • Make sure your hands are clean and dry before using your pulse oximeter.
  • Do not take a reading when your hands are cold. When you're cold, your blood flow is impaired, and adequate blood flow is required for an accurate reading.
  • Place your finger into the device properly, making sure your finger is straight and fully inserted.
  • Do not use your pulse oximeter on fingernails with nail polish or artificial nails. You will not get an accurate reading if the light must pass through nail polish or artificial nails.
  • While using your device, hold your hand in a relaxed position below the level of your heart and sit still. Do not walk around with the pulse oximeter on your finger.
  • Smoking can cause your blood oxygen level measurements to read artificially high. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about the most accurate way to track your blood oxygen levels.

Remember to pay attention to your own physical symptoms. If your pulse oximeter is giving you a normal oxygen level reading, but you feel short of breath or like you are having any difficulty breathing, you should contact your doctor for assistance. Do not ignore physical symptoms due to a normal reading.

If you have any questions about your pulse oximeter from Advanced Affordable Hearing, please feel free to give us a call. We are here to help you! Contact us at 1 (800) 804-0434