What is a Pulse Oximeter?

A pulse oximeter is a small and lightweight device that attaches to a fingertip to painlessly measure the level of oxygen in your body. The oximeter can measure two things: your pulse rate and the level of oxygen in your blood. Both of these numbers are necessary to asses your current levels and health.

It’s important to note that the information a pulse oximeter can provide is limited. As we mentioned above an oximeter only measures your pulse and blood-oxygen levels. An oximeter will not measure the CO2, or carbon dioxide, levels in your blood stream. A pulse oximeter is not a replacement for more extensive and involved tests to be completed by your doctor. If you are ever in a situation where you are concerned about your oxygen levels, we suggest consulting your doctor immediately.

Pulse Oximeter's are discreet, small, and easily transportable! Typically Oximeter's weigh just a few ounces and are thinner than most wallets! Read on to learn more!

What's Normal?


An oxygen level over 95% is considered to be normal. Anything less than 92% (at sea level) is considered to be a low blood-oxygen rating. Below-normal levels of oxygen in your blood generally link to related problems such as breathing and circulation. Symptoms of Hypoxia, or low blood-oxygen levels, are: confusion, fast heart rate, rapid breathing, shortness of breath, sweating, wheezing, coughing, and changes to the color of your skin ranging from blue to red.


A normal steady pulse rate for adults should be anywhere between sixty and eighty beats per minute. Your pulse rate will naturally fluctuate when exercising and resting which can slightly influence your oxygen saturation levels. Make sure you’re always above a 90% oxygen level; if you are not, we suggest consulting your doctor.

Why Do You Need One?

Your oxygen levels are extremely important. In order for your body to function in optimal working order you need to keep an oxygen level over 90%. If you do not keep your oxygen levels up there are many long-term side effects may occur such as brain function impairment, decreased attention span, confusion, disorientation, fatigue, irritability, and in more severe cases, death.

Generally, your doctor will prescribe an oxygen saturation percentage, based on your needs, to be your constant goal. Keeping at this consistent level allows you to safely and effectively participate in a range of actives, manage asthma and COPD symptoms, and keep an eye on your heart rate.

COPD, Asthma, and Other Lung Diseases

If you suffer from COPD, asthma, or other lung diseases a personal oximeter may be necessary. Patients with diseases that affect the respiratory system or lungs need to monitor their blood-oxygen levels closely. When you’re active your blood-oxygen levels naturally drop due to the excursion, however; you’ll need to always shoot for over 90% saturation. Luckily, pulse oximeter’s are available for home use and play an important role in staying healthy, safe, and active. If you’re looking to stay active and suffer from any lung diseases, getting accurate readings and keeping track of your blood-oxygen levels is extremely important to staying healthy!

Not All Are Equal

It’s important to note that not all pulse oximeter’s are created equally. That means, not every single pulse oximeter will give you the quality and accurate readings you require. Sport oximeter’s can be extremely affordable, however, they may not be able to read your levels correctly. If you have a weak or irregular pulse a sports focused oximeter may not be able to provide you with any readings due to the fact that it’s sensor is meant for a heavily beating heart. Instead we recommend purchasing a medical grade oximeter that you either purchase from a reputable company or that is recommended by your doctor. Here at American Medical Sales and Rentals we offer the following high quality oximeter: Roscoe Medical Finger Pulse Oximeter.

Inaccurate & No Readings

Getting an accurate reading from your oximeter is necessary to your overall health and safety. That being said, there are many factors that can alter your oximeter readings. Read the list below to avoid any issues when checking your blood-oxygen levels.

Causes of Inaccurate or No Oximeter Reading:

  • An irregular heart beat
  • A weak heart beat
  • Nail polish
  • Cold hands/fingers
  • Hot hands/fingers

Before starting a reading make sure you warm up your hands if they are cold. Additionally, it can depend which finger you’re using. If you’re suspicious of any readings or nothing is registering, try another finger and consider the list above.

A pulse oximeter is a great way to stay in control and on top of your health! If you're interested in purchasing an oximeter call 1-877-774-9271.

About Danielle Jason: Danielle is extensively trained oxygen specialist and used her oxygen therapy knowledge to write on products from leading manufactures such as Inogen, Respironics, Chart, Invacare and ResMed.

3 thoughts on “What is a Pulse Oximeter?”

  • Jerry M. Hunt
    Jerry M. Hunt May 30, 2018 at 1:20 am

    I have a Rosco Medical Oximeter that has served me well for a couple of years. The dial quit showing me the results. I replaced the batteries and it still is so dim that I cannot read it. Can you suggest how I can fix it, other than buying a new one?

    • Margaret Goodman
      Margaret Goodman June 4, 2018 at 4:13 am

      Unfortunately, it sounds like the OLED screen may be going out on it. They do have a 3-year warranty on them, however, so if you have had it for less than 3 years we suggest contacting Rosco directly.

  • Santamedical

    The newly upgraded SantaMedical SM-165 Finger Pulse Oximeter is an affordable and accurate way to check pulse rates and blood oxygen saturation levels. Self-adjusting finger clamp plus simple one-button design allows for easy operation. Small portable size makes it easy to handle and carry. Helpful for athletes and pilots to obtain quick and accurate oxygen saturation readings. Features include an easy to read bright digital LED display, 30+ hours of continuous monitoring on one set of batteries.


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