Pulse Oximeter – is this needed in your first aid box?
You may have heard the buzz in the media discussing the benefits of having a Pulse-Oximeter at home in your medical first aid box, one Doctor from the USA said that we should have these at the ready, just as you would a thermometer that measures your body temperature. Recently there has been a surge in sales due to the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic but before you add one to your shopping cart read on to decide if you actually need this or not?
What does a Pulse-Oximeter Do?
The Pulse Oximeter is a small digital device that clips on to your middle finger or earlobe. You may well have seen it used in the GP’s surgery or the A&E department in hospitals. They are a very useful tool that measure the amount of oxygenated blood flowing through from your heart, known as the Sp02, your oxygen saturation in your blood can detect if your oxygen levels are getting into a low range. They work by emitting low beams of light that pass through your blood stream and measure the amount of oxygenated or de-oxygenated blood, typically 89% of your blood should contain oxygen.
They are very simple to use and clip onto the middle finger whilst sitting still for 30 seconds. Wearing false nails or nail varnish is not advised as it can distort readings. It is worth knowing that individuals with certain medical conditions like anaemia or Reynaud’s syndrome, can be more complex to provide accurate readings
A healthy adult should have an oxygen saturation rate in the range of 95-100%, someone with a respiratory illness will score lower. It is vital that you seek emergency medical advice if your stats come in lower than 92% as this is a sign of hypoxemia and can be very dangerous.
They don't just measure your oxygen levels
They also read your pulse rate or BPM, beats per minute, so can reflect if your heart rate is out of the normal range. The normal resting heart rate for an adult lies within 60-100 beats per minute. The Pulse Oximeter can detect bpm’s from 25-250. This is a powerful tool to keep a check on your heart rate and many athletes use these as well as fitness trackers as a means of recording fitness. Please note that caffeinated drinks, stress and physical exertion can all temporarily raise your bpm so if you are concerned it is advisable to take multiple readings whilst calm and sitting still.
How is this helping in the fight against Covid19?
Doctors have been saying that this is a useful tool in the fight against Covid19 as sometimes people are not aware that their oxygen saturation levels have dropped to a dangerously low level. You do not always feel the signs before it has reached a level that would require oxygen to help you breathe. Medics have found that patients that were regularly monitoring their Sp02 levels at home when they had covid19 were quicker to get help and in a far better position for early treatment. This would be of extra help to anyone that has a respiratory illness such as asthma, COPD or pneumonia. It may also be of great benefit to the elderly if they were to fall ill. Make no mistake this device is not a diagnostic tool to be used on its own but as a measuring stick that alerts you to seek professional help and advice if you are experiencing low level readings of oxygen saturation.
Should you add one to your shopping list?
Currently, these tiny devices are flying off the shelves as the world is living through a health crisis due to Covid19. If you do want to make this addition to your First Aid box, then beware of the ‘deals’ appearing over the internet. Make sure you buy from reputable retailer such as Boots or Argos or your local high street chemist, and if buying in the UK the Pulse Oximeter should have a safety approval CE mark.
They typically cost around £25-30 and do check out reviews on Which if you’re not sure what to choose. Personally, I bought the St John’s Ambulance accredited version that was £30.00, I am happy to have it tucked away in the cupboard should I ever need it, fingers crossed it won’t leave the box! As a mother of two, one child with asthma and serious food allergies I feel that the spend was worth it and I am happy to have had this useful device brought to my attention. After all in this turbulent time we need to do all we can to stay safe and healthy.