Person using pulse oximeter on finger.

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As COVID-19 continues to make health and safety a top priority, more people are looking for ways to manage their health, and pulse oximeters for use at home are no different.

A guide of pulse oximeters is below, including what a normal read looks like and how to choose the best product for your needs.

A pulse ox is a device that can measure heart rate and oxygen levels in the body. They are usually found in a hospital or clinical setting, but at- home or consumer electronic versions are available online.

Julie Chen, MD, an internal medicine specialist in California, explains, “One can use a pulse oximeter at home to measure your oxygenation, or at a clinic (or at hospitals) to monitor how much a person is oxygenating, and if blood is saturated enough with oxygen.”

Brooklyn, New York-based physical therapist Chaim Backman, PT, EMT, says, “Pulse oximeters work by shining a light through the finger (or earlobe), and then measuring the reflection of the light beam to see how much light passes through, or gets reflected away from the sensor on the other side. Then, using a mathematical equation, oximeters are able to calculate how much oxygen is in the blood.”

A normal read from a pulse ox is between 98 to 99 percent.

He says anything below 90 percent indicates something more serious and needs to be addressed quickly.

We looked for pulse oximeters that had the best features and feedback to make our list. We considered the criteria.

  • Popularity: We included products purchased by hundreds or thousands of customers.
  • Reviews: All products have high average customer ratings.
  • Company reputation and transparency: We only included products from trusted brands. This means there’s been no recent recalls or lawsuits.

Our team has checked each product for medical and business standards.

You can now shop for at- home pulse oximeters, and here are nine products that are approved by experts.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $30
  • $$ = $30-$70
  • $$$ = over $70

Best pulse oximeter for fast results

Oxiline Pulse 7 Pro

  • Price: $$

The Oxiline pulse 7 pro can accurately determine your blood oxygen level in 7 seconds and it has a large display with easy to read digits. It is easy to use. Simply open the hinges of the device and place your finger inside.

The Pulse 7 Pro comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

The pulse oximeter features great sensor with high level detection, according to Chen. The units from the brand are able to give results in a short time frame, which can be useful to users on a time crunch.

Pros

  • FDA-cleared.
  • Provides quick results.
  • high-level detection

Cons

  • Reviewers say the screen scratches easily.

Best basic or simple pulse oximeter

SantaMedical Generation 2 Fingertip

  • Price: $

The Generation 2 Fingertip is an entry level device. Measure your blood oxygen level, pulse rate, and changes in blood flow with the device on your finger. Your blood flow will show up as a wave in the numerical values.

The device is basic and not fancy. It gives the necessary information. It is not FDA-approved.

The SantaMedical Generation 2 pulse oximeter has an auto shut-off feature that can be used after 10 seconds. The oximeter requires a few batteries to power it, but it has only one button for easy use.

Pros

  • Reviewers say it is easy to operate.
  • Comes with a protective carrying case.
  • The display is large.

Cons

  • Users say readings can vary greatly.

Best ear clip pulse oximeter

Nonin 8000Q2 Reusable Ear Clip Sensor

  • Price: Varies

“The Nonin 8000Q2 is our top pick for an ear clip pulse oximeter as it is straightforward to operate and is a great option for anyone looking for a sensor that doesn’t require access to their hands.”

“The device clips directly to your ear. You must rub your ear lobes vigorously for at least 5 seconds before attaching the clip, and make sure it’s positioned to cover the light sensors. The readings may be incorrect if you don’t position it correctly. The brand notes that it is designed to deliver accurate measurements even with dark skin tones. It is not FDA-approved.”

“The ear pulse oximeters require a set of hooks to hook up to, which can be useful to those who want a product with easy setup. I don’t recommend ear pulse oximeters since they are more expensive and less easy to use.”

Pros

  • It works for spot-checking and long-term monitoring.
  • An alternative location can be used to get reading.

Cons

  • higher price point

Best fingertip pulse oximeter

Innovo Premium iP900AP Fingertip

  • Price: $$

“The iP900AP pulse oximeter is available in two models, both of which made our list. The model is a great option, which has consistently beat other pulse oximeters in terms of accuracy and reliability. These findings don’t translate into FDA approval.”

“Reviewers like the accuracy of the oximeter and think it is similar to professional machines. If the readings are reliable or if you are taking them correctly, you don’t need to second guess.”

“Both Innovo models on our list have the same construction and features for fingertip use, and both have visual and numerical readouts on an OLED display. The Premium iP900AP is a good option if you don’t need an alarm feature.”

“Like a thermometer, I do recommend that my patients have a portable pulse ox handy as part of their essentials,” says board-certified internist Christine Bishara, MD. “However, patients should always consult with their doctors on their specific medical problems and use of a portable home-use pulse oximeter before purchasing.”

Pros

  • It is easy to transport.
  • Ready to use right away.
  • Reports accurate readings.

Cons

  • The battery setup can be confusing.
  • reviewers note that it is not very durable

Best pulse oximeter for kids

Hopkins Handheld

  • Price: $$$

“Trying to take an oxygen measurement from a child can be difficult. The handheld oximeter from the Hopkins is our top pick for kids because of it’s anti-movement digital signal processing technology.”

The device has three different programs for different age groups. The age group and type of sensor are what you need to use the device. You can choose from a strap that wraps around small hands or a sensor that is a finger. An alarm will alert you if something is wrong or when the reading is over.

The device comes with a 2-year warranty, AA batteries, and a sensor for use with infants and babies. It is FDA-approved, but it is pricier than other options.

“The handheld pulse oximeter can be put around children’s hands. They are more expensive than oximeters that are used on the finger or toes.”

Pros

  • audible and visual alarms for high/low oxygen saturation levels.
  • The Y-probe neonatal sensor is included.
  • It can be used for children or adults.

Cons

  • higher price point

Best oximeter with alarm

Innovo Deluxe iP900AP Fingertip

  • Price: $

This is the second model that we have made. The Innovo iP900AP model has an alarm, which is different from the Innovo iP900AP model. The alarm will sound if your oxygen levels or pulse rate fall outside the set limits. You can set the alarm to sound when the pulse beats are loud. You can change the settings for the alarms according to your preferences.

The pulse oximeter has an alarm that can be turned on or off, and There are six different options.. It only requires a few batteries to power it, so it is ready to use out of the box.

The Innovo Deluxe is a model that is not approved by the FDA.

Pros

  • Includes optional alarm.
  • There are six different options.
  • high quality product

Cons

  • Some customers have issues with the company.

Best forehead sensor for pulse oximeters

Covidien Nellcor SpO₂ Forehead Sensor with OxiMax

  • Price: $$$

“If you prefer an option that doesn’t rely on hand or arm access, the NellCor forehead sensor is a sound choice. The device can read your forehead with a stick.”

You will need to purchase an oximeter system from Covidien to use the sensor. It is a medical-grade system with FDA approval.

Chen says that Covidien has an oximeter that has pulse attachment. The oximeters that are available are more expensive and require a system that is portable.

Pros

  • Low oxygen can be detected up to 90 seconds earlier.
  • Plug-and-play use.
  • Useful for both kids and adults.

Cons

  • higher price point
  • A system that requires a tabletop.

Best pulse oximeter for continuous monitoring

Philips WristOx2 Wrist-Worn Pulse Oximeter

  • Price: Varies

The oximeter is one of the best on the market. The WristOx2 model has long lasting battery life and enhanced memory which allows more data to be collected.

It is unlikely that your average consumer would need equipment like this, as it is FDA approved and designed for use in a professional healthcare environment.

Continuous monitoring should only be used for a hospital setting. pulse ox readings should correlate with clinical findings that are closely monitored in this setting. Continuous monitors and portables for patient use are offered by the company.

Pros

  • It\’s possible to use the wireless technology, called the “bluetooth-enabled.”
  • easy to read display

Cons

  • There have been multiple serious recalls of breathing machines by the company.

Best pulse oximeter during exercise

iHealth Air Wireless Fingertip Pulse Oximeter

  • Price: $$

The iHealth Air Wireless oximeter is a great option for the price, if you are considering monitoring your oxygen while exercising.

“You can use the oximeter to keep track of your vital signs. You can link to your phone to display your vital signs. It’s easy to see how exercise affects your oxygen level and pulse rate.”

“You can use the iHealth MyVitals app to see trends over time and help you reach your fitness goals. It is ideal for people who want to improve their exercise performance. This isn’t an FDA-approved option.”

The oximeter has a lanyard and micro-usb for charging the built-in battery.

Pros

  • The technology is called the “bluetooth”
  • There is a free app for the phone.
  • The warranty is for 12 months.

Cons

  • The battery life is short.

Pulse oximeter Price Location of reading Ease of use
Oxiline Pulse 7 Pro $$ fingertip very easy
SantaMedical Generation 2 Fingertip $ fingertip very easy
Nonin 8000Q2 Reusable Ear Clip Sensor varies earlobe difficult
Innovo Premium iP900AP Fingertip $$ fingertip somewhat easy
Hopkins Handheld $$$ soles or palms (handheld) easy
Innovo Deluxe iP900AP Fingertip $ fingertip easy
Covidien Nellcor SpO2 Forehead Sensor with OxiMax $$$ forehead somewhat difficult
Philips Wrist-Worn Pulse Oximeter varies wrist varies
iHealth Air Wireless Fingertip Pulse Oximeter $$ fingertip easy

John Hill, RRT, of pulmonary services at Deborah Heart and Lung Center in New Jersey, says those living with chronic heart and respiratory conditions benefit most from using a pulse oximeter.

Patients with lung or heart conditions, including those with COPD and asthmatics, and those with allergies, benefit from monitoring their oxygen levels.

Vicken Zeitjian, MD, a cardiovascular specialist at UT Health in San Antonio, adds that COVID-19 has also increased the demand for pulse oximeters lately, as it’s a respiratory-borne illness that affects oxygenation status.

Admission to the hospital for COVID-19 is often based on oxygenation status. The oxygen saturation should be below 90 percent if the person has a variety of symptoms.

Chaim told Healthline that most at- home pulse oximeters give accurate readings. He warns that the accuracy of pulse oximetry readings can be influenced by a variety of factors.

What affects pulse oximeter readings?

The readings can be affected by nail polish color and decals.

IfNail polish absorbs light at 660 or 940 nanometers, it can affect pulse oximeter readings. This is seen in black, green, and blue nail polish. Artificial acrylic nails may affect the accuracy of oximeter readings.

Chen suggests that the following can affect the accuracy of readings.

  • Anemia.
  • low blood pressure.
  • The skin has more color.
  • The body temperature is low.
  • The hospital uses certain dyes for certain tests.

Chen says that dark skin and blood dyes make it harder to read oxygenation in the blood.

“Low blood pressure means blood volume, and Anemia. means fewer blood cells, which makes the sensor have a harder time seeing the data,” says Chen. ”Similarly, The body temperature is low. also makes blood vessels constrict, making it hard to read as well.”

Board-certified internist Jaydeep Tripathy, MBA-MPH, PhD, says pulse ox probes or sensors can be attached to the finger, nose, ear, toes, and forehead.

The middle finger is the most accurate place to get a pulse ox reading, as opposed to other body parts.

However, in a clinical setting, pulse ox probes tend to differ, according to board-certified internal medicine specialist Spencer Kroll, MD, PhD.

“Hospital-based pulse oximeters can be linked to machines that measure blood pressure and temperature, and can also measure a patient’s heart rhythm.”

Home-based pulse oximeters only measure the pulse oxygenation and the heart rate, while hospital systems can provide a printout of readings.

There are many brands to choose from when shopping for at- home pulse oximeters.

“Pulse oximeters that are labeled ‘for medical use’ and ‘FDA approved’ are what you should be looking for when purchasing,” Zeitjian advises. “These can be spotted on products found at stores such as CVS, Walgreens, and Target. Most pulse oximeters also measure your heart rate, which is also a plus to many.”

Which pulse oximeters are FDA-approved?

There are several pulse oximeters that are FDA-approved, including the Oxiline Pulse 7 Pro. Getting a prescription oximeter that is approved by the FDA for medical use ensures the product’s been vetted for accuracy.

There are many over-the-counter options available that aren’t subject to FDA approval, though. These shouldn’t be used as medical devices.

What pulse oximeters do hospitals use?

Many hospitals use pulse oximeters created by the following medical manufacturers: Nonin, Philips, Masimo, Innovo, SantaMedical, or Veridian.

These companies produce a variety of products that are appropriate for medical use.

Can a fingertip pulse oximeter help detect coronavirus?

“A pulse oximeter can’t diagnose coronaviruses.”

If you notice that your oxygen level is low, you should immediately consult your doctor. If a low oxygen level reading is accompanied by serious symptoms, like confusion, chest pain, or arrhythmia, seek immediate medical attention.

pulse oximeters are used to monitor oxygen levels in the blood Those with underlying respiratory and heart conditions benefit the most from using these devices.

A range between 98 and 99 percent is what you should look for when using a pulse oximeter. Immediate medical attention is required for a reading under 90 percent.

When shopping for pulse oximeters, look for labels that guarantee safety. It is best to stick with the ones that are attached to the fingertips, as they are the easiest to use.