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When the COVID-19 pandemic first began, people started thinking about pulse oximeters. Suddenly, devices most people previously couldn’t name were selling out left and right.
Many pulse oximeters are now back in stock, which raises a huge question: Should you buy one?
What is a pulse oximeter?
A pulse oximeter is a small medical device that gently clips onto your finger. Once in place, it measures your heart rate and blood oxygen level (the amount of oxygen in your red blood cells) in seconds, Dr. Jonathan Parsons, a pulmonologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells Yahoo Life. Pulse oximeters specifically measure the amount of light absorbed by your blood, which then indicates your blood oxygen level, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
How can it be used during COVID?
With the pandemic still raging, Parsons says pulse oximeters “may also be used as a tool to see how significantly the lungs have been affected by COVID-19.”
If you test positive for COVID-19, consider getting one for at-home use. A pulse oximeter can be “good for monitoring” a patient with COVID-19, Dr. Richard Watkins, an infectious disease physician and professor of internal medicine at the Northeast Ohio Medical University, tells Yahoo Life.
“It’s a way to give yourself a barometer to know if you should come to the hospital, because maybe things aren’t moving in the right direction,” Dr. Osita Onugha, a thoracic surgeon and assistant professor of thoracic surgical oncology at John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells Yahoo Life.
In general, you want your pulse oximeter to read between 95 percent to 100 percent, Onugha says. “Anything less than that and you should probably be evaluated by a physician,” he adds.
Who should get one?
For the record, experts are mixed on whether the general public needs a pulse oximeter. When it comes to COVID-19, Watkins says healthy, uninfected people are probably fine to do without one. But, he says, it’s a good tool to have if you’ve already been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have a suspected case of the virus. And, if you have a respiratory issue that can predispose you to a more severe case of COVID-19, Onugha says it’s probably not a bad idea to get one.
When it comes to picking a pulse oximeter, Onugha says most options you can find are good. Parsons agrees. “Most of the devices that are used on the fingers are very similar,” he says.
Interested in getting a pulse oximeter? Check out these options.
Zacurate’s pulse oximeter determines your blood oxygen saturation levels, pulse rate, and pulse strength in 10 seconds on a large, easy-to-read digital LED display. Its finger chamber has a smart spring system to accommodate a range of finger sizes. Coated in a silicone cover for comfortable use, it comes with a 12-month warranty and two AAA batteries.
Mibest’s pulse oximeter uses just one button, so you can check your blood oxygen level quickly. And it shows results on your blood oxygen level and pulse in real time. Mibest’s dual color display has 10 levels of brightness, making it easy for just about anyone to read.
This pulse oximeter comes with a built-in alarm that will go off if you get a less-than-desirable reading. (The alarm will sound for blood oxygen levels lower than 94 and pulse rates lower than 50 or greater than 130). LDream’s unit also has low power consumption and can be used continuously for more than 48 hours. And, when no signal is detected, it’ll shut down after 16 seconds to save energy. This is sold by YostEnterprises, a trusted Amazon seller with a 100 percent positive rating.
Metene’s pulse oximeter gives a quick, accurate reading within 10 seconds thanks to its one-button start. The clear display also shows pulse rate and a pulse rate bar graph. And we like the battery-saving feature: It’ll shut down on its own after eight seconds of non-use.
This gizmo packs a lot into its small display screen: It shows your blood oxygen level, pulse rate and pulse strength, along with bar graph readings to help you get a visual. Portable and lightweight, it offers results in eight to 10 seconds flat.
FaceLake’s bright case makes it easy to spot in a medicine cabinet. An oversized display clearly shows your blood oxygen level and pulse rate in less than 10 seconds. It has two AAA batteries included, so you can start using it right away.
The Atmoko pulse oximeter takes a reading on your blood oxygen saturation level and pulse rate in 10 seconds or less. Its large digital display is easy to read, and a pulse rate bar and waveform can help give you a visual on your results. The display rotates, so you can view your results from any direction.
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