Check your oximeter’s fitness

Article by Dr. Chinnadurai R., Lead Consultant – Critical Care, Aster RV Hospital

Oximeter, once a rarely heard name and used only in the hospitals has now become the household item since the pandemic began. To safeguard patients from deteriorating health, doctors suggest monitoring the oxygen saturation level frequently. With an increasing number of oximeter devices available in the market, do we know if the product we are using is calibrated right and working properly? Let’s understand how oximeter works, how to take the readings, and about identifying the faulty readings.

A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the oxygen saturation level in the blood in a non-invasive and painless way.  This small clip-like device assesses the heart rate and oxygen level. For a person who tested positive for Covid 19, the oxygen level is the key indicator to understand whether the infection has spread to the individual’s lungs. Especially among people who have mild symptoms or are asymptomatic, this device helps to track the severity of infection. A pulse oximeter is typically a fairly accurate test with a provision for an error margin of 2%. Therefore, an oximeter has become the must-have device during Covid times to know your lung condition.

A faulty oximeter may provide faulty readings which may in some cases lead to emergency situations as people are increasingly dependent on oximeters. In many cases, these variations may go unnoticed and people end up in the emergency rooms due to faulty oximeters.

Beware of faulty devices:

With the increased demand for oximeters, there is an influx of multiple types of devices in the market which is making it difficult to choose. The lack of knowledge about the device and the variety of choices have now left people more confused regarding the purchase of oximeters. There are a few oximeters that may show the SPO2 level more than 100 which clearly indicates that this is a faulty device as the percentage of SPO2 has to be within 100. Therefore, it is important to check the oximeters before buying them. Buying it from genuine brands and testing it for correctness before buying is vital.

While checking the reading in the oximeter, one has to give prominence to the numbers mentioned in the display and also the wavelength form which is displayed. The waveform of a healthy person will be a pulsed waveform, i.e, with every heartbeat, there should be a spike to reflect blood flow. This gives more clarity on the performance of the device.

It is not only the device one should be careful about, using the device properly and also taking the reading in the right way is crucial to understand the true health condition.

What to look for while buying an oximeter:

There are three different varieties of oximeter including finger pulse oximeters, hand-held oximeters, and fetal pulse oximeters. While finger oximeter is generally used at home, others are used at the hospitals. It is important to buy the right type of device to avoid any panic situations. While buying oximeters look for the following features

  • It has a clear and bright display
  • Made out of durable material
  • Provides accurate readings
  • Look for certifications like FDA, RoHS, or CE certifications

How to use the oximeter properly?

  • Rest for 10-15 mins before taking measurements
  • Rest a hand on the chest and hold still
  • Place the oximeter on the middle or index finger
  • Keep it in the same place till the reading is stable
  • Register the highest result once the reading has been stabilized
  • Identify the reading carefully
  • Start recording from the baseline and record thrice a day unless you notice any changes in your health
  • Consult a medical professional in case of breathlessness or dip in oxygen levels to 95 percent or less
  • Remove nail polish before checking and the finger should be dry
  • Rest the fingers on the thigh and not the chest

After testing positive for Covid 19, it is important to monitor the blood oxygen level. Make the right decision before buying the oximeter and do not fall for the discounts and sales.

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