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Wrist and fingertip pulse oximeters are a medical device that measures oxygen saturation in a person’s red blood cells. Medical professionals use pulse oximeters on patients experiencing shortness of breath or those who have heart or lung conditions to determine if they are getting enough oxygen. Pulse oximeters are also used by patients undergoing surgery or in the recovery room and diagnosing sleep apnea.
In this article, we are specifically addressing both wrist and fingertip pulse oximeters in the context of the new Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). We will follow the official recommendations and guidelines regarding the use of wrist and fingertip pulse oximeters and share the available products on the market.
What is the Best Pulse Oximeter for Home Use?
The best pulse oximeter is portable and easy to use. It should have a digital number reading as well as a graph for the user’s convenience. The device should also have a monitor with an adjustable brightness option, which makes it easy to see results whether you are indoors or outdoors. Moreover, it should be equipped with high-technology features like an auditory alarm that can be set to warn you if the SpO2 and pulse rate levels are beyond the limit that you have set.
With the many products available in the market, we understand your dilemma in choosing the right one. To provide a quick solution to your problem, we have gathered a list of the best wrist and fingertip pulse oximeters available on the market. We have chosen the products according to customer reviews and ratings.
Consider every option that you have, and do not forget to compare prices and features so that you can get the best deals. Beware of price gouging. Some businesses might try to take advantage of the situation and sell at enormous prices; always buy from reputable vendors who protect the consumer.
Check out the list below for the description of each product. We have also shared tips and information on how to find the best product according to your needs.
ViATOM Wearable Oxygen Monitor-get more info
3 BEST WRIST AND FINGERTIP PULSE OXIMETERS:
The folks at Amazon also have their list of best wrist and fingertip pulse oximeters – many are on sale.
Disclaimer: We are not medical professionals, and nothing in this article should be construed as medical advice. You should immediately consult your doctor in case of any symptoms, doubts, or questions regarding Coronavirus. To stay up to date in regards to COVID-19, follow the official sources:
At a Glance – Product Table
Below are the best wrist and fingertip pulse oximeters that you can choose from. To find out which one suits your needs and preferences, check out the features of each product. Scroll down below for more information.
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Top 10 Best Wrist and Fingertip Pulse Oximeters
What is a Pulse Oximeter?
According to the American Lung Association, “The pulse oximeter, or Pulse Ox, is an electronic device that measures the saturation of oxygen carried in your red blood cells.” The device can be attached to your fingers, forehead, nose, ears, wrists, foot, or toes. It is an easy and painless way to measure how well oxygen is being sent to parts of your body furthest from your heart, such as the legs and arms. If you are experiencing shortness of breath or have a known heart or lung condition, your doctor may use a pulse oximeter.
The device is also used in home settings for people who have underlying health conditions. You can also find them on Amazon, in pharmacies, and in medical supply stores, although prices and quality can vary widely.
Note: If you are using it in a home setting, it is vital to consult your healthcare provider to guide you with the interpretation of the results.
How does it Work?
Pulse oximetry works with the use of red and infrared light. After clipping the device onto a body part, one side shines red and infrared LEDs through a relatively transparent skin portion. It is where there is good blood flow, while the other side receives the light.
The principle of the technology is that oxygenated hemoglobin can absorb more of the infrared light, which allows more red lights to pass through. By analyzing the light from the light source that passes through the finger, the device can determine the percentage of oxygen in the red blood cell.
The device also shows the pulse rate. A resting pulse rate of 60 to 100 beats per minute is average, though athletes can have even lower rates. An increased or decreased heart rate that differs from your average can be concerning.
✅ Video – How does Pulse Oximetry Work?
Below is a video shared on YouTube by the Respiratory Therapy Zone. It talks about pulse oximeter and how it works. In the video, how to use a pulse oximeter is also discussed and what an oximeter measures. For an in-depth discussion, you can watch the video below.
Why are People using it to Detect COVID-19?
Shortness of breath is among the symptoms of COVID-19. Many patients with severe cases have deficient levels of oxygen in the blood. Others who have tested positive are experiencing shortness of breath. Maybe this is one of the reasons why people are interested in buying and using pulse oximeters. This device measures the saturation of oxygen in red blood cells.
Increasing Demand for Pulse Oximeters in the U.S.
The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked an interest in pulse oximeters. You can find tutorials on YouTube and social media with instructions on how to purchase pulse oximeters to monitor whether they have COVID-19 or not. Take note that doctors discourage patients from using homegrown measures and any device that isn’t FDA-approved.
Many models are also sold out in online stores and pharmacies. According to Quartz, U.S. sales of pulse oximeters spiked on January 20 when the country’s first COVID-19 case was confirmed.
Do You Need to Get One?
✅ Tweet – Chris Cuomo Shares Details of His Symptoms
In the tweet below, CNN host Chris Cuomo shares what it was like to experience the effects of Coronavirus. The 49-year-old host, who is the younger brother of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, said that he even had a hallucination of his late father, former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, who died five years ago. He also shared that people have been sending him pulse oximeters, which are hand-held devices that read your body’s oxygen levels.
— Cuomo Prime Time (@CuomoPrimeTime) April 2, 2020
According to Shoshana Ungerleider, an internist at Crossover Health in San Francisco, “If you haven’t been diagnosed with Covid-19, or aren’t suspected of having it, home pulse oximeters aren’t necessary.” It especially applies if you do not experience Coronavirus symptoms like trouble breathing, chest pain, severe cough, and have not established a baseline.
Stephen Parodi, infectious disease physician and associate executive director of the Northern California Permanente Medical Group, also said that the reading mainly is not useful on its own and “It can’t replace a visit or call with the doctor who can assess all of your symptoms and how they relate to any underlying medical conditions you have.”
Moreover, according to Andrew Admon, a pulmonologist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, “It’s not unusual for oxygen saturation to stay normal or close to normal, and then drop suddenly. As a result, normal oxygen saturation can be falsely reassuring.” Healthy people can often maintain normal blood oxygen levels for a long time, even though they are sick. It is because their heart and lungs compensate in other ways.
Even pulse oximeters used at hospitals can deliver inaccurate results. However, hospitals can use other screening methods, like measuring oxygen levels directly, looking at tracing data from the pulse oximeter, and physically examining the patient. “Without the ability to do this, it’d be hard to separate a poor reading due to a faulty homemade pulse oximeter from a true cause for concern,” according to Admon.
Wrist and fingertip pulse oximeters could be useful for those with several underlying conditions, such as asthma, congestive heart failure, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
But for everyone else? The device may just be an unneeded source of anxiety. According to Jamie Garfield, a volunteer medical spokesperson at the American Lung Association and an interventional pulmonologist at the Temple Lung Center in Philadelphia, “You might check and check and check, and what are you going to do if the number is low?”
Warning People about Pulse Oximeters That is Not FDA Approved
Online stores have many listings for pulse oximeters. However, you need to be aware that not all of them are FDA approved. It is dangerous to use such devices because they are at risk of getting an inaccurate reading. A study in Anesthesia & Analgesia in 2016 looked at several inexpensive pulse oximeters that are not cleared by the FDA. They have found out the many of the devices are prone to large errors.
FDA Approved Pulse Oximeter
As we have mentioned above, people should be aware of purchasing pulse oximeters that the FDA has not cleared. However, if you still would like to purchase one, the fingertip pulse oximeter below has been cleared by the FDA to be accurate within 3 percent for oxygen saturation levels from 70-100 percent.
How About Phone Apps?
Because of the shortage of devices, many people are using oximeters apps. However, take note that Apps that use smartphone cameras to deliver SpO2 measurements can be hit-or-miss. The FDA has not cleared such technology. A study from the University of Alabama and the University of Michigan about three pulse oximeters: iOx, OX, and POx show that all three apps delivered inaccurate SpO2 measurements.
Difference between Wrist and Fingertip Pulse Oximeters
Wrist Pulse Oximeters
This type of pulse oximeter is designed, especially as a blood oxygen level (SpO2) and pulse rate data recorder. They are handy for continuous overnight sleep studies. Wrist pulse oximeters record, monitor, and save two crucial vital signs: pulse rate and blood oxygen saturation level (SpO2), to improve fitness performance and sleep quality.
Wrist pulse oximeters are personal or home use devices. You can still use them in sleep studies, cardiac rehab, physical therapy, and other scenarios where it makes more sense to wear an oximeter for a long time.
Fingertip Pulse Oximeters
This type of pulse oximeter is the most popular and probably what you envision when thinking of this kind of device. The device features an alligator clip shape that is attached to the finger. It also features a screen on the top that displays SpO2 and pulse rate levels.
The style varies from the very basic that only reads the SpO2 to the full-featured versions with LED displays. This type of pulse oximeter is the most compact, simple, and affordable.
How to Read an Oximeter
Pulse oximeters can determine the amount of oxygen in the blood using sensors that detect the color changes in the blood due to the movement of oxygen-bound hemoglobin. It is useful for measuring a patient’s respiratory function. According to Livestrong, the following are the steps on how to read a pulse oximeter:
Locate the SpO2 reading
It can be found on the pulse oximeter’s digital readout and will be given as a percentage, often between 90 and 100 percent. The location varies according to the type of pulse oximeter used. There are also pulse oximeters with a bar, which indicates signal strength. It measures the intensity of the signal that the sensor is generating. High signal strength means that it is less prone to errors.
Usually, patients will have SpO2 levels between 96 and 99 percent. Levels below 90 percent generally indicate acute respiratory failure. On the other hand, the normal range varies from one patient to another. Patients with chronic respiratory diseases may have a SpO2 level below 90 percent without having acute respiratory problems.
Identify the Pulse Rate
The next step would be to identify the pulse rate. Pulse oximeters usually measure the patient’s pulse rate in addition to oxygen saturation. The pulse is displayed as a two-or-three digit number (normally between 60 and 100 in an adult and higher in infants and children.) It displays along with a heart shape or the letters BPM (beats-per-minute).
Locate Other Measurements
The last step would be to locate any other measurements on the display screen. There are some pulse oximeters which also show the patient’s ECG and plethysmogram. The ECG measures the electrical activity that the heart generates while beating and can be used to monitor cardiac function and identify arrhythmias.
On the other hand, the plethysmogram displays the changes in the amounts of oxygen on the blood that occurs with each pulse. Generally, these pulse oximeters are not available for home use.
✅ Video – Blood Oxygen, Understanding Pulse Oximeter Reading
Rawi Rocharungsat shares the video below on YouTube. It shows how to read pulse oximeters. He is using a portable fingertip pulse oximeter for home use. In the video, he explains the numbers and reading on the monitor display. He also discussed the average numbers usually shown on the device. Check out the video below for the discussion.
What does a Pulse Oximeter Measure?
Nonin explains that the pulse oximeter measures the oxygen level (oxygen saturation) of the blood and the pulse rate.
Blood Oxygen Saturation (SpO2)
It is an estimation of the amount of oxygen that is in your blood. A reading of 95% or greater is normal. On the other hand, a reading of 92% or less suggests that your blood is poorly saturated. It can cause a range of adverse health conditions, which include chest pain and shortness of breath.
The pulse rate is an estimation of the number of times that your heart contracts per minute. A normal pulse rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute (bpm). Generally, a lower heart rate at rest implies more efficient heart function and better cardiovascular fitness. For some people, a pulse rate below 60 bpm indicates abnormally slow heart action.
Blood Oxygen Meter
Your blood oxygen level is measured by how much oxygen your red blood cells are carrying. Your body closely regulates your blood oxygen level. It is important to maintain a precise balance of oxygen-saturated blood. Usually, children and adults do not need to monitor their blood oxygen levels. Doctors will not check it unless you are showing signs of a problem like shortness of breath. On the other hand, people with chronic health conditions should monitor their blood oxygen levels to determine if treatments are working or adjusted.
Who Needs Pulse Oximeters?
You can use pulse oximeters in many kinds of situations, making sure that there is enough oxygen in the blood. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, it can be used for the following:
- During or after surgery or procedures that use sedation
- To see how well lung medicines are working
- Checking a person’s ability to handle increased activity levels
- To see if a ventilator is needed to help with breathing or to see how well it’s working
- Checking a person has moments when breathing stops during sleep (sleep apnea)
You can use pulse oximeters in checking the health of a person with any condition that affects blood oxygen levels, such as:
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Lung cancer
Types of Pulse Oximeters
All pulse oximeters perform the same basic function, measuring the level of oxygen saturation in the blood. However, there are various types of pulse oximeters that you can choose from. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages.
Portable or Fingertip Pulse Oximeter
The fingertip pulse oximeter is portable and is the most commonly used version at home, clinics, hospitals, and other medical facilities. This type of pulse oximeter is the most efficient for monitoring blood oxygen levels because it is affordable, convenient, and easy to use. Click here for the best fingertip pulse oximeters available on Amazon.
Handheld Pulse Oximeter
This oximeter is mostly used in medical facilities because they provide more accurate readings in continuous and spot check monitoring. The handheld pulse oximeter is commonly utilized in hospitals and ambulatory health settings or EMS. It features a probe that is attached to a cable that is then attached to a monitor. Check out the best handheld pulse oximeters available on Amazon.
Tabletop Pulse Oximeter
The tabletop pulse oximeter is bigger as compared to a handheld pulse oximeter. It can perform on-the-spot readings and continuous oxygen saturation monitoring. This kind of pulse oximeter is ideal in hospitals and subacute settings.
Wrist Pulse Oximeter
This pulse oximeter is a wireless model usually preferred for continuous monitoring of a patient’s blood oxygen saturation. It is for patients in need of monitoring daily or during their sleep. The wrist pulse oximeter is worn on the wrist like a wristwatch. It has a probe placed on the index finger, which connects to a small monitor on the wrist. If you are looking for wrist pulse oximeters, click here for the best options available.
Fetal Pulse Oximeter
The fetal pulse oximeter can fit snuggly on a neonate’s small fingers. In case the infant’s fingers are too small to fit the probe, there are other varieties designed to fit the head or foot. This pulse oximeter is specifically for children.
Pulse Oximetry Approach
Pulse oximetry can be used in inpatient, outpatient, and even for home use recommended by a health physician. It can be done by the following approach:
Another approach would be through the ears. For this, the transmission probe is clipped on the patient’s earlobe, wherein it connects to the monitoring unit that displays the oxygen saturation level.
It is the most common method of acquiring a patient’s pulse oximetry. The probe should be well-positioned on the patient’s finger, ensuring that the device is n too tight or too loose. The patient will feel a small amount of pressure, but there is no pain involved during the procedure.
Foot or Palm Approach
For neonates, their fingers or ears may still be too small to place the clip. For this situation, the pulse oximeter probe can be attached over the infant’s foot or palm.
In rare cases wherein the fingers and ears are inaccessible, a pulse oximetry reflectance probe may be attached low across the forehead and just right above the patient’s eyebrows. Place it away from a major vessel. For this approach, the patient should be in an inclined position. A headband is then strapped across the forehead over the probe to keep it in place.
Are There Any Limitations?
Pulse oximetry is an accurate test that provides results within only a 2-percent difference from the actual reading. On the other hand, some factors can impact accuracy. Below are the limitations of pulse oximetry according to Cables and Sensors.
Placing the probe on a finger with any polish or pigment can interfere with the readings. The color can absorb the emitted light, which makes it unable to detect oxygenated hemoglobin. Before putting on the probe to the patient’s fingers, make sure to remove the nail polish. In case it is not possible to remove the polish from the finger before the test, the probe can be turned sideways, or you can find another possible site to place the probe.
Exposure to Direct Bright Light
Another factor affecting the reading of a pulse oximeter includes having a direct bright light shining at the probe like sunlight or operating light. While the device has a soft rubber that shields it from the light, it may not avoid bright light shining directly on the device. See to it that you perform the procedure in a room with adequate lighting.
The movement of the patient can also lead to an inaccurate reading. It is because the probe can easily dislodge. If the patient is fussy or shivering, you might want to hold the hand to keep it steady, or you can also wait until the shaking has dispersed before resuming the test.
We have also written a post about antiviral face masks. Check out the article for more information about face masks and the best products that you can purchase on the market.
✅ Video – How to Use a Fingertip Pulse Oximeter
The video below is shared by Easy at Home Healthcare and shows how to use a fingertip pulse oximeter. How to turn on the oximeter, how to properly place it on your finger, and how to take the reading are discussed. If you have a similar fingertip pulse oximeter at home or are planning to purchase one and wonder how to use the device, you can check out the video below.
Mibest Pulse Oximeter
If you are looking for a fingertip pulse oximeter that is easy to use, you can choose the mibest pulse oximeter. It has an efficient one-button operation. The SpO2 sensor will spot check and display in real-time, and the pulse bar graph is ideal for checking your pulse signal strength. The oxygen saturation finger monitor can be used as a pediatric pulse oximeter. It is suitable for kids and children as well as a blood oxygen monitor for adults.
Ankovo Pulse Oximeter
Another option that you can have for a fingertip pulse oximeter is the Ankovo pulse oximeter. It has good quality and strong applicability. The device measures the SpO2 level and heart rate accurately in about 10 seconds or less. It has a large digital LCD that shows the SpO2, pulse rate, and pulse rate bar graph. This device is suitable for sports enthusiasts or anyone interested in measuring their SpO2 and pulse rate while on the move. You can also use it before or after you exercise.
Zacurate Pulse Oximeter
This device is accurate and reliable. It can accurately determine your SpO2 level, pulse rate, and pulse strength in just ten seconds and display it on a large digital LED display. This device is ideal for sports enthusiasts like bikers, mountain climbers, or anyone who would like to measure their SpO2 and pulse rate while doing sports. It has a finger chamber with SMART spring systems to accommodate a wide range of fingers. This device works for ages 12 and above.
Accumed Pulse Oximeter
The accumed pulse oximeter provides accurate oxygen saturation and pulse rate readings in one device. It is a fingertip pulse oximeter monitor that can fit all finger sizes from kids to adults. The device can measure the oxygen level in the blood and read the pulse rate in just eight to ten seconds. Make sure that you use the device in a stationary position to get accurate readings. This device is for home, exercise, or travel.
Equate Fingertip Pulse Oximeter
This fingertip pulse oximeter helps keep you up to date on your health. It is easy to use and can keep track of your oxygen level and heartbeat. The device features a fingertip reader, giving an accurate reading while providing a more comfortable experience than a wrist or armband monitor. It has a backlit display that is easy to read, and the clear, color-coordinated blue numbers and yellow words let you know which number is the result for which function.
Innovo Deluxe Fingertip Pulse Oximeter
Another option that you can have is the Innovo deluxe fingertip pulse oximeter. It shows your measured SpO2 and pulse rate on a high-quality OLED screen. The device has two critically acclaimed features, which include the Plethysmograph and Perfusion Index (PI). These features improve the reliability of the readings. The PI informs you of the strength of your pulse. Moreover, it also has a lanyard and 2 AAA batteries so that you can use the pulse oximeter right out of the box.
Santamedical Pulse Oximeter
This oximeter is clinically tested when it comes to accuracy and reliability. It is a fast and reliable device to use when monitoring your oxygen and pulse level. When using the device, all that you need to do is to press a button. It uses patented technology and can also show readings in four different directions with six displays. The device is lightweight, compact, and has a long battery life.
Best Oximeter App
You can download oximeter apps on your phone. They are in demand now that most home pulse oximeter devices are in short supply. You can choose from the many available applications. On the other hand, make sure that you check out the reviews and ratings of the apps so that you can find out if they are indeed reliable or not. Note that these applications provide a hit-or-miss result, and the FDA does not approve most of them.
5 Benefits That You Can Get From Using Pulse Oximeters
It is Lightweight and Portable
Both wrist and fingertip pulse oximeters are lightweight and almost the same size as an ordinary watch. A sensor is attached from the device to your finger. There is no long cable that can be caught or tangled during use. The pulse oximeters are portable, and you can take it anywhere with you.
It Provides Continuous Monitoring
The pulse oximeters are used for continuous monitoring. The battery is long-lasting, so there is no need for you to check if the device is still working or not constantly. Some pulse oximeters have a built-in alarm that will sound if the oxygen or heart rate level is outside the pre-set limits. Rest assured that you are monitored even during sleep.
✅ Video – Pulse Oximetry
The video below is shared by Dr. John Campbell on YouTube and talks about pulse oximetry. He provides an in-depth explanation of pulse oximetry and how to do it. He also discusses monitoring blood oxygen saturation with implications for clinical practice. Check out the video below for more information.
It Can Store and Record Data
Most devices have a memory that can record data. Some pulse oximeters can record up to 270 hours of data, which you can download on a computer. The latest models can stream the data to an application on your mobile phone.
It Has No Age Limit
Pulse oximeters have no age limit. Some products have multiple sensors and wrist band size options, so babies and adults can use it. Clinics are using high-tech pulse oximeters for babies.
It Can Be Used for Both Medical and Recreation Purposes
The device is for monitoring the oxygen level and pulse rate of the user. Aside from medical purposes, athletes can also use pulse oximeters to make adjustments in their activities. The device can easily determine if the activity is too much for the body to handle or not.
5 Things That You Need to Consider When Buying Pulse Oximeters
The basic pulse oximeters show numbers on an LED display. The two numbers are the result of blood oxygen saturation level or otherwise known as SPO2, and the heart rate or pulse. The latest model will show additional information and a much nicer organic LED display.
Type of Battery
You can choose from two batteries, namely alkaline and lithium-ion. The lithium-ion is convenient, rechargeable, and cost-efficient. It can last for many years. On the other hand, the alkaline battery is disposable, and you will have to replace it every few months to make sure that the device will function accordingly.
Some wrist pulse oximeters have built-in alarms. It enables the user to set a limit at which the alarm will sound. This feature is useful since it will let you know if you have exceeded the limit you have set for the heart rate. Also, the alarm will sound when your oxygen level has dropped.
The latest model of pulse oximeters can transfer data to your phone or computer using wireless transmission. The purpose of this is to store a record of your data. Usually, health professionals will recommend this kind of model so they can keep track of the changes in your oxygen and SPO2 level.
Make sure that the device that you purchase has a long time warranty. Some pulse oximeters have warranties of up to two years, while some only up six-month warranty. See to it that you can easily return the device for checking or replacement if some damage shows up in a short term of usage.
Wrist Pulse Oximeters for Athletes and Outdoor Activity Enthusiasts
Aside from people with health issues, athletes and rock climbers are also using pulse oximeters. The device will monitor the pulse and oxygen levels of the body. For people who are doing strenuous activities, they must monitor the oxygen level in their bodies. It is especially true if you are climbing a high altitude mountain. Purchasing this device does not need a prescription. You can choose an OTC model for diagnosis.
The Importance of Pulse Oximetry for Patients with Lung Disease
Patients with lung disease should have their oxygen level checked regularly. It is to ensure that they have enough oxygen flow in their body and avoid any complications from happening. Doctors prescribed the use of pulse oximeters to keep track of the patient’s condition.
✅ Video – What is Pulse Oximeter?
Here is a video demonstration of the importance of pulse oximetry for patients with lung disease.
The Uses of Pulse Oximeters
Used by the Elderly
Seniors can also use pulse oximeters. The device can diagnose or treat patients suffering from respiratory diseases that can easily affect the oxygen level in their blood. You can choose a pulse oximeter worn on the wrist, so there is a minimum chance that they will forget or misplace it.
Used in Rigorous Activities
Aside from athletes, pilots use pulse oximeters to keep track of the oxygen level in their body. High altitude can cause the oxygen level to drop, and lack of oxygen in the body can lead to various health problems.
Can I Use it When Exercising?
Yes, you can use it when you exercise. It will keep track of your heart rate and oxygen saturation of your body.
How Do I Clean the Pulse Oximeters?
You can clean it using cotton and alcohol. You can also wipe it using a damp cloth. Be careful in handling the battery part of the device.
Do I Need to Have a Prescription to Buy it?
No, there is no need for a prescription. Many online sellers offer pulse oximeters. You can easily choose and order the one that you like.
Thank you for reading this article about the best wrist and fingertip pulse oximeters. We hope that we have provided you with the information that you need. Aside from medical purposes, pulse oximeters can also be used in exercising. Take time to consider your compare one product to another to find out which one suits you best.
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