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Doctors may recommend pulse oximeters for people with certain health conditions who need to measure their blood oxygen levels at home. These devices may be helpful for individuals of any age. Nonprescription versions may help people who train for sports or engage in other aerobic activities, such as mountain climbing.

This article explains what pulse oximeters are and what their use is. It also reviews some devices that individuals can purchase from online companies and outlines some factors to help people choose the right product for their needs.

A pulse oximeter is an electronic device that a person attaches to their fingers, forehead, nose, foot, ears, or toes to measure the oxygen levels in their red blood cells.

The American Lung Association (ALA) states that doctors may recommend this device if people experience shortness of breath or have a lung or heart condition.

The device provides fast results without the need to take blood samples. It helps doctors determine whether a person requires supplemental oxygen — for example, with the help of ventilators or continuous positive airway pressure machines.

According to the ALA, a person may need to use oxygen equipment if they are living with any of the following conditions:

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there are two types of pulse oximeters:

  • Prescription pulse oximeters: These are FDA-reviewed and require a prescription. Doctors typically use these devices at clinics or in hospital settings.
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) pulse oximeters: The FDA does not review these products, and they do not require a prescription. People can buy them for home use at drugstores or online. They are not medical devices, which means they may be more suitable for people who play sports or participate in aviation activities.

Research suggests that cheaper, OTC, and non-FDA-approved devices may eventually be able to provide medically accurate oxygen level readings.

According to a 2016 study, while many affordable devices did not provide accurate readings, others provided readings similar to FDA-approved devices.

The researchers also note that none of the devices reached the standards set by the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists. Yet the study authors express hope for the eventual clinical use of more affordable oximeters in clinical or other settings.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried any of these products. All information presented is purely research-based.

Wellue O2Ring

This FDA-registered device can monitor a person’s oxygen levels, heart rate, and body movements every second.

It has a silent vibration alarm to alert the user if they are experiencing a low or high heart rate and low oxygen levels.

People can also sync it to their smartphone, tablet, or computer to store their results.

This device may be suitable for individuals with sleep apnea or COPD, as it monitors their oxygen levels while they are sleeping. It also features a soft silicone material for comfortable wear during sleep.

In addition, the O2Ring comes with a 1-year warranty and 30-day return policy.

Pros and cons

Some potential pros are the following:

  • It is easy to use and set up.
  • Customers found that it improved their sleep quality.
  • Unsatisfied customers returned the product for a refund of the purchase price.

However, the device requires frequent recharging. Some users also found that it could not integrate with other health apps.

Insignia Pulse Oximeter

This device measures oxygen levels and heart rate, and it may suit people who do sports or engage in aviation activities.

The Insignia website states that a person cannot use this device for medical purposes and that it does not diagnose or treat medical conditions.

Some of its features include:

  • a digital display with 10 brightness levels
  • a compact size for easy storage and transportation
  • a lanyard that keeps the device close at hand
  • an automatic shut-off feature
  • anti-motion technology

The device weighs 0.11 pounds (lb) and has the following dimensions:

  • width: 1.42 inches (in)
  • depth: 1.33 in
  • length: 2.28 in

It comes with a 1-year parts and labor warranty.

Pros and cons

The following are some potential advantages of the Insignia pulse oximeter:

  • It provides quick results.
  • The company offers fast delivery.
  • According to the company website, it was accurate when doctors compared it with a hospital’s device.

Some people may regard as a disadvantage the fact that the device is not suitable for medical purposes and does not include an app for phones, tablets, or computers.

iHealth AIR PO3M Wireless Fingertip Pulse Oximeter

This portable and FDA-approved pulse oximeter may suit individuals who engage in mountain climbing, skiing, cycling, or aviation. They can measure their oxygen levels before or after exercising.

It may also be beneficial for those with heart failure, COPD, or bronchial asthma.

The device comes with:

  • Bluetooth smart technology
  • a built-in lithium ion battery
  • a hypoallergenic silicone finger chamber

It also comes with a free app called iHealth MyVitals, which allows a person to track their results.

Individuals can also view a visual representation of their heartbeat, which can provide insights into their health. For example, a consistent waveform may mean that a person has a healthy blood flow.

Additionally, the device comes with a 12-month warranty.

Pros and cons

Some pros of the iHealth AIR PO3M pulse oximeter include the following:

  • A person can view their readings on a smartphone or tablet.
  • A person can sync it to the Apple Health app.
  • The device features a large, easy-to-read screen display.

According to reviews, the following are some of the cons:

  • The price may suit individuals with a large budget.
  • The charging cable is short.
  • The device has a short battery life.

Zacurate Digital Fingertip Pulse Oximeter for Children

According to the company website, this pulse oximeter is suitable for children and adults with small fingers who play sports or engage in aviation activities.

The device is portable and easy to use, with one-button operation.

Other features include:

  • adjustable brightness
  • a multidirectional display so that people can read results in any layout
  • a battery level indicator
  • a hypoallergenic silicone finger chamber
  • a 1-year warranty

The device provides a plethysmograph, which is a visual representation of a person’s heartbeat.

Pros and cons

The device has a lot of positive reviews, with customers mentioning the following:

  • It can monitor oxygen levels in children with asthma.
  • It produces fast readings.
  • It is soft, which can make it safer or more comfortable for children.

Some users have noted, however, that the device may provide inaccurate readings if the child does not stand still.

Reviewers have also pointed out that this pulse oximeter provided different readings on different fingers.

Oxiline Pulse 7 Pro

Oxiline Pulse 7 Pro is an FDA-approved pulse oximeter that comes with:

  • a long battery life
  • a high contrast LED display with large digits for easy reading
  • a weight of 0.13 lb

The company also offers:

  • free shipping
  • a lifetime warranty
  • a 30-day money-back guarantee

Pros and cons

Positive reviews focus on the product’s quality. Many people found it useful during the COVID-19 pandemic to measure their blood oxygen levels. The company also offers fast shipping.

However, some people found it difficult to attach the lanyard to the device, which may have made this pulse oximeter more difficult to use.

Hopkins Handheld Pulse Oximeter

Hopkins Medical Products states that its handheld pulse oximeter is best for spot check applications and regular monitoring. It also claims the device is ideal for home healthcare professionals who need to monitor their patients’ oxygen levels.

The device features:

  • an anti-movement digital signal-processing technology
  • visual and audible notifications for low and high oxygen level alerts
  • a zippered nylon organizer
  • a user manual
  • batteries
  • an indicator for pulse strength and signal quality

It also comes with a 2-year warranty.

Pros and cons

The Hopkins device offers fast readings, which some people may find useful.

However, some individuals may find the price of the device out of their budget.

There are some factors people may want to consider before purchasing a pulse oximeter. These include:

  • Bluetooth technology: Some brands enable their customers to connect the pulse oximeter to their smartphones or other Bluetooth-enabled devices. This may be helpful if a person wishes to review the results with a healthcare professional.
  • Adjustable brightness: Some devices come with an adjustable brightness feature to make it easier to read in a variety of light conditions.
  • Large digits: Devices that provide readings with large digits may be helpful for older adults and individuals with limited vision.
  • Purpose: A person living with certain medical conditions should check with a doctor before making a purchase, as some devices may not be suitable for their medical use. People who need the device for sports or other recreational activities do not need a medical grade device.
  • Fitting: Some devices may fit children or adults who have small fingers. Larger devices may be better for people with bigger fingers, but they will not work as well on smaller digits.
  • Hypoallergenic components: Some devices have a hypoallergenic silicone finger chamber, which may be best for people with allergies or for children.

Pulse oximeters may be useful for individuals who have a lung or heart condition. These devices measure the oxygen levels present in red blood cells, and if these are low, doctors may recommend further treatment.

Individuals training sports or engaging in other activities may use an OTC version of the device to measure their oxygen levels.

There are various products available on the market, and people should consider comparing the different features and consulting with a doctor before making a purchase. Selecting the right product will depend on a person’s lifestyle, intended use, and budget.