How do I check my oxygen level at home?

When you are at home and don’t have all of the electronic devices and laboratory access typically found in a hospital, there are two ways to check your oxygen level: a portable pulse oximeter and assessing physical signs and symptoms.

If you regularly use oxygen at home, it is a good idea to get a portable finger pulse oximeter. This device is similar to the electronic pulse oximeters used in medical facilities. When you need to assess your oxygen level (or oxygen saturation) at home, this device will give you a number based on a range from 70%–100% and will also display your current heart rate. This data can be used to help you make important decisions during an emergency. Normal oxygen saturation levels are 97%–100%, although many patients that require oxygen at home may be at a lower baseline, ranging from 88%–96%.

If you do not have a portable finger pulse oximeter in your home, you can also learn how to assess signs and symptoms of low oxygen levels. If you are the patient using oxygen, it is a good idea to learn these signs and symptoms yourself, but you will also want your family members or anyone who lives with you to be aware of these signs in case of an emergency.

Two classic signs of a low oxygen level is a rapid heart rate and a fast breathing rate. A normal heart rate is 60–100 beats per minute and a normal breathing rate is 12–20 breaths per minute. However, under conditions of low oxygen, your body responds by increasing your heart rate and speeding up your breathing rate.

Checking your own breathing rate is a bit tricky because once you focus on it—your rate changes. On the other hand, you can easily measure your heart rate. Below is a video that will show you how to check your heart rate:

Below is a video that will show you how to check your heart rate:

Finally, another sign of a low oxygen level is cyanosis, or a bluish color change on your lips, nose, or fingertips. As your body loses oxygen, the blood cells in your body change color in your bloodstream to a dark blue, which can be seen from the outside of your skin if it is severe. Cyanosis is typically a late sign of low oxygen levels and is considered a medical emergency. If you notice this bluish discoloration, you should call 911 immediately.
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