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How To Use A Pulse Oximeter To Measure Oxygen Levels

There is a quick and easy way to measure your blood oxygen levels using a device called a Pulse Oximeter. A Pulse Oximeter is a clip-like device that is placed on a body part (typically the fingers) and uses light to determine the percentage of oxygen in your red blood cells. A Pulse Oximeter can also provide a reading of your heart rate.

Using a Pulse Oximeter to measure oxygen levels is easy and painless. There are no needles involved. The device simply clips to a body part and takes a few seconds to provide a reading.


Oxygen levels are an important sign of how well a body is working, just like a person’s blood pressure or body temperature. People who have lung or heart conditions may use a pulse oximeter to check how they are doing, as directed by their doctor.

Pulse Oximeters are commonly used in hospitals, but they can also be easily purchased online or at pharmacies without a prescription. There are also many pulse oximeter phone apps, but they are not recommended as they often give improper readings.

Also keep in mind that if you have poor circulation, dark skin pigmentation, thick skin, wearing dark fingernail polish, or if your fingers are not clean, the pulse oximeter may give inconsistent readings. Here are some other recommendations by the FDA.

Pulse Oximeter Chart
Pulse Oximeter Chart

In hospital or medical settings, pulse oximeters are often used in the following situations:

  • To monitor patients before, during, and after surgery.
  • To monitor patients on certain medications.
  • To assess the lung function of people with lung and breathing conditions like COPD and asthma.
  • To assess individuals with sleep disorders such as sleep apnea

If you are experiencing medical issues and concerned about your oxygen levels, you should not rely solely on pulse oximeter readings. A doctor or hospital will typically use pulse oximeter readings along with several other tests to diagnose potential problems.

Watch these helpful videos below about how to use a pulse oximeter, as well as Boost Oxygen Founder and CEO Rob Neuner using a pulse oximeter shortly after arriving at high altitude in Colorado.

Other links of interest on the subject: Pulse Oximeters explained by the American Lung AssociationWhat is Pulse Oximetry (Johns Hopkins)