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What is pulse oximeter? How it works and why you might need it

What is pulse oximeter? How it works and why you might need it

What is pulse oximeter? How it works and why you might need it
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By CNBCTV18.com Apr 19, 2021 11:18:32 AM IST (Published)

It is an easy and painless way to measure how well the oxygen is being sent to different parts of the body.

The second wave of the novel coronavirus is raging across India. On Sunday, the country logged 2,75,000 new infections and over 1,600 deaths due to the coronavirus. One of the common symptoms -- when the virus starts taking a toll -- is the drop in oxygen levels in your body. And therefore, having a pulse oximeter at home would help monitor oxygen levels and help to decide whether a patient requires oxygen from an external source.

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But this is certainly not the only use of this device.

What is a Pulse oximeter?
It's a small device, which helps us measure the oxygen saturation level in the body.  In simple terms, it's an easy and painless way to measure how well the oxygen is being sent to different parts of the body, farthest from the heart.
How does it work?
It's a clip-like device, usually placed on the tip of your index finger but can also be used on a toe or an ear lobe to measure the amount of oxygen in the blood. The device uses infrared light refraction to measure the oxygen level in the bloodstream.

The information collected on the device helps a doctor, nurse, or any health professional to decide if a person needs extra oxygen.

Why do I need a pulse oximeter?
It's a device that can come in handy in many situations and most importantly these days for patients suffering from COVID-19. These patients need regular monitoring of their oxygen levels for a doctor to determine if s/he needs to be put on support from another source of oxygen.
However, it can also be used during or after procedures that use sedation. The device also helps better understand how well lung medicines are working. It checks a person or a patient's ability to handle the increased activity.
As we said before, it helps a doctor or any health professional take a call on whether a patient needs to be put on ventilator support for breathing. The device can also be used to check a person's health with any condition that affects oxygen level. These include heart attack heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), anaemia, lung cancer, asthma, pneumonia.
Oxygen Level Readings
The device is considered fairly accurate when it comes to giving oxygen ratings. According to a report by Healthline, a good quality oximeter gives results within a 2-percent difference either way of what the real saturation level is. For instance, if the reading on the tiny screen of the device shows 82 percent, your saturation level could be anywhere between 80 and 84.
At least 89 percent of your blood should be carrying oxygen, experts say.
This level of oxygen saturation is needed to keep your cells and body healthy. Anything below 89 temporarily may not be a cause for concern but if the oxygen saturation level consistently remains below this number could be worrying.
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