What’s a Pulse Oximeter? Purpose, Uses, and How to Take a Reading

In the realm of health technology, convenience is of the utmost importance. In today’s busy world, it can be difficult to spot many subtle health issues without taking a long period of dedicated time to do so. There are, however, a few pieces of technology that can help with this while also being designed to go wherever you go. One of the most interesting ones being the pulse oximeter.

What Do They Do?

As you probably know, your blood keeps you alive by bonding oxygen to red blood cells and transporting those red blood cells throughout your body. Therefore, it’s important for those red blood cells to always carry a certain baseline amount of oxygen. If they fail to do so, you may begin to notice symptoms like headache, increased pulse, or shortness of breath. Feeling almost like you’ve done a hard workout, even if you’ve been sitting completely still. If you’re suffering from any of these symptoms and think you may have abnormally low oxygen levels. You can use a pulse oximeter to check. It’ll report both your pulse and your blood oxygen saturation levels. It will give you a quick indication as to whether or not you should see a doctor.

How Do You Use One?

Doctor using pulse oximeter

So, how exactly do you use a pulse oximeter? First of all, that you’re not wearing any nail polish, acrylics, or anything else of the sort, and ensure your hands are warm beforehand. Then, sit down and wait about five minutes, as any sort of elevated activity level will skew the reading. Then, you should be ready to run the test. Most pulse readers designed to be put on your finger, so go ahead and slip it on, then activate it. Once the test starts running, the readings will shift around for a bit. Once they’ve stopped shifting, remove the finger oximeter and read the results. 

From here, you’ll need to know how to read a pulse oximeter. Two numbers are displayed on the reading, with the leftmost generally representing your heart rate in beats per minute. The rightmost representing your blood oxygen saturation expressed as a percentage. For most adults, you should expect a pulse between 60-100 beats per minute and a blood oxygen saturation of around 95-100%.


If your pulse oximeter is consistently giving you readings outside of those parameters. It may be worth giving your doctor a visit to figure things out. Especially if you’ve also noticed any other strange symptoms. Using your pulse oximeter regularly will help you to keep a good handle on your oxygen levels, ensuring that nothing out of the ordinary goes unnoticed!

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