Blood Oxygen Saturation Safe Levels and How to Check Your Own Saturation Level

If you have COPD any other chronic lung condition, you probably know what it means to have a lower than normal blood oxygen level. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is just one example, but it means that your lungs ability to bring in enough oxygen is compromised. The tiny air sacks in your lungs have been damaged, so you can't absorb enough oxygen through these sacks into your bloodstream.

It's important to have a certain level of oxygen, versus a certain level of carbon dioxide in your blood at one time. The carbon dioxide is carried back to your lungs, where it is breathed out when you exhale. The oxygen you breathed in gets delivered to every part of your body, as part of the fuel you need to keep your body working properly.

Your heart and your brain are two of the most important organs in your body, and they use the most oxygen out of any other part of your body. Your brain alone uses over 20% of the oxygen you breathe in. If it doesn't get enough over time, your brain cells will begin to die. If your heart isn't getting enough oxygen over time, you can develop heart disease.

Educate yourself with our Free Oxygen Therapy Guide

So what is the safe zone for blood oxygen saturation? People who are breathing normal, who have relatively healthy lungs (or asthma that is under control), will have a blood oxygen level of 95% to 100%. Anything between 92% and 88%, is still considered safe and average for someone with moderate to severe COPD. Below 88% becomes dangerous, and when it dips to 84% or below, it's time to go to the hospital. Around 80% and lower is dangerous for your vital organs, so you should be treated right away.

Your blood oxygen level will also go down a little when you are exercising, unless your doctor has instructed you to turn your flow setting up while you are exercising, to make up for this change. Depending on the model, your oxygen concentrator might also adjust to meet this need for more oxygen while you are being physically active.

You can check your own blood oxygen level, to make sure you're in the safe zone, with a hand held pulse oximeter. These are easy to use, and work just like the ones used in doctor's offices and hospitals. It presses against either side of your finger tip, and gives a quick reading through the screen located directly on the pulse oximeter.

There are no big pieces of equipment – just something that is easy to read, and easy to carry around with you. The one we have at American Medical is a little over 2 inches long, and only weighs 2 ounces! You can check your blood oxygen level at any time with your hand held pulse oximeter.

Watch out for these warning signs that your blood oxygen level has gone down. Shortness of breath, fatigue, headaches and body aches are all signs that your blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. Get it checked with your pulse oximeter, and call your doctor right away.

8 thoughts on “Blood Oxygen Saturation Safe Levels and How to Check Your Own Saturation Level”

  • Joseph Vozzo

    When you are taking a lot of pills prednisone , water , doxyccline , furosemide does that hurt your breathing?

    • Danielle Jason

      Thank you for your question, Joseph. This is something you will need to speak to your individual physician regarding as they will know the insights into your individual medical condition, allergies, abilities, and possible solutions/issues when starting a new form of therapy.

  • Christopher John Matlock
    Christopher John Matlock March 24, 2018 at 8:26 am

    Hi I have late stage copd my breathing seams to be burning when breath in my oxegyen lol is at 89 / heart rate 90 talking is hard just took 2:5 atrevent 2.5 subutamal

  • Chuck Prince

    I get vastly different readings depending on which hand I place the oximeter. I get numbers around 99 on the right handadda while I get high 80's on my left hand. I have COPD (Pretty serious COPD) and I am confused by this anomaly. Any thoughts?

    • Margaret Goodman
      Margaret Goodman April 16, 2018 at 3:52 am

      We see this happen with people who come in as well. If you are concerned about your oxygen levels I recommend going into your doctor's office and having it checked.

  • Johnnie Lee

    Doctor, I have just recently gotten off of oxygen. My blood oxygen was 93. My question is,is it good for me to be off of oxygen.

    • Margaret Goodman
      Margaret Goodman April 16, 2018 at 3:45 am

      It is always good to hear when someone has been taken off of oxygen. However, if you have concerns you should set up a time to speak with your doctor. It is always a good idea to speak with your doctor about your concerns about being off of oxygen.


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