Do you need a Pulse Oximeter at Home?

Do you need a Pulse Oximeter at Home?

Since the beginning of the pandemic, people have observed the prescribed protocols and guidelines from the World Health Organization, CDC, and their respective governments to keep themselves prepared and protected at home from the coronavirus. Stocking on healthcare products and devices and following proper disinfecting measures have been standard practice. However, as cases continue to rise there are medical devices that have continued to gain more importance outside of hospitals and within households – including the pulse oximeter.

What is a pulse oximeter?

According to the World Health Organization [1], the pulse oximeter is a small electronic device that can either be a finger/toe clip unit. It has a monitor that displays the level of saturation of oxygen (Sp02) and the pulse rate of the heart.

The device painlessly and accurately measures through the use of light emitting diodes (LEDs) and light detectors to detect pulsatile signals in a person’s extremities (e.g., finger).

Is it important during COVID-19?

Advice on the need for pulse oximeters at home has been a discussion among doctors.

Dr. Lutschmansingh [2], pulmonologist at Yale Medicine, says that unless the patient does have a lung disease, purchasing a pulse oximeter in normal times is not a need. In the context of COVID, however, pulse oximetry monitoring has clear benefits for symptomatic patients. 

Doctors have noted that COVID-19 patients (both in hospitals and at home) may feel fine and comfortable with no signs of shortness of breath [3], unaware that their oxygen saturation levels are dropping to alarming levels (silent hypoxemia). This is why some people may want or need an easy and accurate way of monitoring oxygen level, through the use of high quality pulse oximeters.

Overall, while the pulse oximeter may be a useful tool to have in your home medical kit, it is still best to consult your physician for proper medical advice. You can check with them if buying a pulse oximeter makes sense for your condition. 

How do I choose a pulse oximeter?

While all types of pulse oximeters are compact (e.g. handheld, fingertip, fetal) there are certain features and standards that you might want to look at.

Accuracy is the most important factor of a pulse oximeter [4]. When purchasing online it is best to check certifications for the product. Examples of certifications ensuring the reliability of the product include the FDA, RoHS and CE. 

Display is another important feature [5]. While most (if not all) pulse oximeters merely display pulse rate and the oxygen level, each device has its own way of displaying such information. Choose a model with an easy-to-read display.

Price may also vary depending on the material the pulse oximeter has and other features such as waterproofness. Lastly, some oximeters have an alarm feature to alert the patient/user.

Where do I buy a pulse oximeter?

While oximeters can be found in many pharmacies and medical depots, going to these physical stores is not ideal given the pandemic. 

In the Philippines, medical online marketplace MedHyve allows users to find and buy directly from trusted medical suppliers and brands. You can sign up and browse the Philippines’ largest catalog of medical products at https://www.medhyve.com/


[1] World Health Organization. (2011) Pulse Oximetry Training Manual. Geneva; WHO Press. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/patientsafety/safesur


[2] Katella, K. (2020) Should You Really Have a Pulse Oximeter At Home? Yale Medicine. Retrieved January 24, 2022 from https://www.yalemedicine.org/news/covid-pulse-oximeter

[3] World Health Organization. (2021) Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19). World Health Organization. Retrieved January 24, 2022, from https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus#tab=tab_3 

[4] Singh, S. (2021) Pulse Oximeter Buying Guide – Here’s How to Choose the Right Oximeter at Home. Business Insider India Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.in/tech/how-to/how-to-choose-the-right-pulse-oximeter/articleshow/82228819.cms

[5] Kapoor, A. (2022) Pulse Oximeter Buying Guide: Price, how to buy the right oximeter, types & more. The Times of India. Retrieved from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/most-searched-products/health-and-fitness/buying-guide/pulse-oximeter-buying-guide-features-price-how-to-buy-the-right-one-more/articleshow/79992362.cms

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