You don’t have to have a condition to find a pulse oximeter useful. They can be a helpful device for training so athletes can ensure that their body is getting the O2 rich blood they need to perform. For those with a lung condition such as asthma, the flu, pneumonia, COPD or lung cancer, or those worried about the symptoms and lingering effects of COVID-19, a pulse oximeter can help you stay on top of your oxygen levels to maintain good health.
How a Pulse Oximeter Works
A pulse oximeter is a tiny device that clips around your finger and can help determine if there’s enough oxygen circulating in your blood without the need to prick your finger or draw blood. Instead, pulse oximeters read your O2 levels by small beams of light. These beams go through to the oxygenated red blood cells and changes in the light absorption allow the oximeter to give you an O2 reading.
Important Information From the FDA
Even though these little devices are super easy to use and non-evasive, an at-home pulse oximeter should never replace a visit to a health care professional if you are feeling ill. There are a lot of factors that can cause inaccurate readings including those with poor circulation, thick skin, recent tobacco use and even having nail polish on.
To get the best results, the FDA recommends you should:
- Follow a healthcare professionals advice on how often to check your O2 levels
- Use the manufacturer’s instructions
- Make sure your hand is warm, relaxed and held above the heart
- Remain still and don’t move during reading
- Wait for the reading to stop
Those using a pulse oximeter should also be aware of the signs of low oxygen levels. These include:
- Bluish coloring of hands, lips and face
- Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
- Fast pulse
- Chest pains
- Restlessness and discomfort
You can find the full set of things you should consider, as well as more information from the FDA website.
What are The Best Pulse Oximeters
Most of the pulse oximeters below are the clip-to-your-finger variety, but smartwatches are also using the technology. Below are our recommendations for the best pulse oximeters available for home use.
1. Contec Finger Tip Pulse Oximeter
This is a great tool for athletes to get a quick reading of their blood-oxygen saturation levels. It has a bright display that is easy to read and gives readings on your O2 levels as well as your pulse, so you know when you can push forward and when to pull back. And when it’s not in use, it will automatically shut off, so you don’t have to deal with the frustrations of having a dead pulse oxygen reader in your gym bag. It’s only $20 for one of the most highly rated pulse oximeters available on Amazon.
2. Wellue Pulse Oximeter
This can be a great tool for not only getting quick O2 readings but also for continuous tracking of your O2 levels. When paired with the app, you can store readings for up to 10 hours. The app as well as the 2.0 OLED display on the oximeter are easy to read and navigate. It’s about $20 more expensive than the Contec pulse oximeter, but the added tracking makes it well worth the extra cost.
3. Masimo Mighty Stat
Easily the most expensive pulse oximeter in our recommendations that’s not a watch, the Masimo Mighty Stat has a few more tricks up its sleeve compared to other pulse oximeters. Of course, it gives you O2 saturation readings (as they all do), but it also provides helpful metrics and data such as your pulse rate, respiration rate and pleth variability index which can alert you to changes in your breathing or hydration levels. And when you connect it to the Masimo app, you can track all that insightful data on your phone.
4. Wellue 02 Ring
We wouldn’t necessarily call this thumb-ring O2 sensor fashionable, but it definitely doesn’t look as bulky as your average O2 sensor. Instead of clipping to your finger, it slides onto your thumb to give you O2 readings. This design is more comfortable to wear, especially when you sleep. And when it’s paired to the app, you can track your O2 levels continuously while you’re wearing the sensor. At $179, it’s pricier than most but less expensive than the Masimo Mighty Stat.
5. Zacurate Pro Series 500DL
Whether you are training in the gym or getting ready for a big race or hike, the Zacurate Pro can help you train correctly. It gives you quick O2 readings that are easy to read thanks to the big and bright LED screen. You can keep it in your bag or attach a lanyard through the loophole so it’s readily available. And the best part, it’s under $20.
6. Apple Watch Series 6
The Apple Watch Series 6 is quite obviously more than an O2 reader, but for health nuts, there’s plenty of reason to splurge for this watch. Beyond measuring your blood oxygen, which it does so quickly and accurately, there also a built-in ECG to check your heart rhythm continuously throughout the day. Plus you get all the awesome benefits of a smartwatch like tracking other fitness activities and staying connected to all of your notifications.