Pulse oximeters have become popular as a personal purchase in the last few years. Though they became widespread in the 1980s, it is only recently they became more affordable. Today these devices typically retail for less than $30.
So what exactly are they?
Pulse oximeters are simple non-invasive electronic devices that measure how well oxygen is sent to parts of the body furthest from your heart (such as arms and legs). Some can also calculate heart rate.
To obtain a measurement, a sensor device is placed on a thin part of your body, usually a fingertip or an earlobe. Inside the probe is a light emitter that sends out two streams of light: one red and one infrared. Oxygenated blood and deoxygenated blood absorb different amounts of these lights. By calculating the absorption of haemoglobin in the person’s blood stream at these two different wavelengths, the pulse oximeter measures how much oxygen is in your blood. Okay, enough of the science lesson…
Everyone’s oxygen saturation fluctuates, especially when changing activities throughout the day. Cold hands, weak pulse, hand movements, fingernail polish and acrylic nails are some of the most common factors that may affect a reading and cause inaccurate results.
Healthy individuals typically measure above 97%. A healthy body should never fall below 95%, although oxygen saturation above 92% is generally considered safe.
Although measuring oxygen saturation during a workout may not be necessary for most people, wearing a pulse oximeter can be useful in certain situations. Serious athletes may, for example, wear a pulse oximeter to monitor oxygen levels during strenuous workouts. They are also useful for mountain climbers and athletes whose oxygen levels may decrease at high altitudes.
Measuring oxygen saturation is more important for those with certain medical conditions or patients recovering from a recent illness or surgery. Monitoring your oxygen levels in these cases can help to ensure your safety. Pulse oximetry can be used to check the health of a person with any condition that affects blood oxygen levels, such as: heart attack, heart failure, anaemia, lung cancer, asthma, pneumonia and Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
It is a little known fact that the Apple Watch has a continuously monitoring reflective sensor capable of acting as a pulse oximeter. Unfortunately, the functionality is not currently enabled in the watch.
This is our selection of some of the best pulse oximeters on the market today.
With more than 4000 five star reviews on Amazon, the Acc U Rate Pro Series 500DL is the top selling pulse oximeter in America.
The small and portable device is manufactured according to the CE and FDA standards set for pulse oximeters used by doctors and other health professionals. Designed for sports enthusiasts, the oximeter is also suitable for use by GPs, nurses and community workers.
The Oximeter is really easy to use. Simply push the little button on the top and clip it on to your finger. Acc U Rate accurately determines your SpO2, pulse rate and pulse strength in 10 seconds and displays it conveniently on a large digital LED display. The device accommodates a wide range of finger sizes, children to adult, and has an auto-shut off feature (after 16 seconds) to save power when finger is removed from device.
Its small size makes it easy to carry around and a lanyard is also included for added convenience. Finally, the oximeter comes with 2 AAA batteries and a silicon cover to protect the device from dirt and damage.
The newly upgraded SantaMedical SM-165 Finger Pulse Oximeter is an affordable and accurate way to check pulse rates and blood oxygen saturation levels. The self-adjusting finger clamp plus simple one-button design allows for easy operation. The small portable size makes it easy to handle and carry.
Features include: an easy to read bright digital LED display; 30+ hours of continuous monitoring on one set of batteries; integrated SpO2 probe and processing display module plus SpO2 and Pulse Rate and bar; low battery level indicator; and auto power off.
The oximeter comes with 2 AAA batteries and a hanging neck/wrist strap and case for use on the move. The device is intended use for spot check of pulse rates and blood oxygen saturation level at home, in sport and recreational use, such as mountain climbing, high-altitude activities and running.
Newly redesigned in 2015, the Deluxe SM-110 comes with major improvements over the previous model, such as a two way display. Be default, the display faces the user. At the touch of button, it faces away from user.
This FDA approved device provides reliable oxygen saturation and heart rate readings without compromising accuracy. Just insert the 2 AAA batteries, put it on your finger push the on button and there you go. The SM-110 is for anyone who is interested in knowing their readings including mountain climbers, hikers, skiers, bikers, and others.
The Deluxe SM-110 is suitable for all ages and accommodates a wide range of finger sizes – children to adult. Finally, you also get a nice little velcro close mesh case with a belt loop and neck cord. This is an excellent oximeter all around – inexpensive, very accurate, and easy to carry.
Another best seller on Amazon, the Concord Fingertip Pulse Oximeter uses advanced technology to monitor blood oxygen and heart pulse rate via a large 2-way rotating, bright red, perfusion LED display which allows you to read in the dark or bright light. The device runs up to 30 hours on a single set of AAA batteries and shuts off automatically after eight seconds to avoid unnecessary draining.
The multi-colored Concord features everything you would want from a portable oximeter including a shock resistant rubber cover which protects it from damage, a reusable foam-padded box and a comfortable lanyard that allows you to keep it close at all times. And if you are not happy with it, there is a two-year warranty and money back guarantee.
iHealth, the maker of fitness trackers, smart scales and smart blood pressure monitors, also sells an oximeter.
The iHealth Wireless Pulse Oximeter is a great and reliable way to spot-check your SpO2 and pulse rate. The FDA approved device gives you gives you fast, accurate vital signs readings. You can track and view your blood oxygen level readings instantly on the device LCD display and through the iHealth MyVitals app from your smartphone.
Simply charge your oximeter, download the iHealth app, and you’re ready to go. The iHealth Wireless Pulse Oximeter automatically detects your smartphone or tablet.
The free iHealth MyVitals app automatically keeps a history of your data and gives you the option to share your information with a family member, doctor or caregiver. The smartphone app records and saves your data to the secure, HIPPA compliant iHealth cloud. Each reading is evaluated and charted for a clear picture of your current level of wellness, and results are graphed against previous readings to track trends at a glance.
This pulse oximeter is great for athletes or anyone who wants to gain a much greater understanding of how their bodies work, both during normal recreation and high-impact sports.
The Withings Pulse O2 is a fully featured activity monitor. The tracker allows you to keep a tab on your daily activity, steps, distance walked, elevation climbed and calories burned. It also has built in automatic run detection and monitors your sleep cycles at night.
What sets this device apart from other fitness trackers on the market today is its Optoelectronics sensor. By pressing your finger against the HR light sensor on the back of the Pulse O2, you can obtain measurements of your heart rate and blood oxygen levels.
If you dont mind the outdated look, as a comprehensive fitness tracker, the Pulse O2 definitely offers good value for money. It is unlikely you will buy the device for its oxygen feature alone but if we couple this with its other functions you get a feature packed device that won’t disappoint those who run or walk as their primary activity.
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