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How to Ensure a Correct Pulse Oximeter Reading

Finger Pulse Oximeter

Make sure the pulse oximeter is properly attached to your finger for an accurate reading.

When you are measuring your oxygen saturation level and pulse using a finger oximeter, it’s important to ensure the reading is correct. Certain conditions may cause the oximeter to give an inaccurate reading. A good way to double check the accuracy of a pulse oximeter reading is to check your pulse manually and compare the two readings.

Abnormal Pulse Oximeter Readings

Some common reasons for an inaccurate oximeter reading include the following:

  • Nail polish – Remove polish or artificial nails before using the oximeter.
  • Excessive movement – Remain as still as possible while taking an oximeter reading.
  • Incorrect attachment – Make sure the probe is properly attached to your finger.
  • Restricted blood flow – Pressure on the arms or fingers can restrict blood flow and affect the measurement of your oxygen saturation.
  • Cold fingers – Poor circulation to the extremities can affect oximeter readings. Warm your hands and fingers before taking your pulse.

Other factors that can affect the pulse oximeter readings include the following:

  • Electomagnetic waves from electric appliances or medical devices
  • Excessively bright light
  • Hypothermia or extremely cold fingers
  • Anemia
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Certain types of seizures
  • Shock resulting from blood loss or poor perfusion
  • Abnormal hemoglobin
  • Medical dyes

If your pulse oximeter reading is abnormally high or low, make sure you are following all recommended procedures for taking a pulse measurement and try checking your levels again.

Normal Blood Oxygen Saturation Levels

The normal range for blood oxygen saturation is between 96% and 100%. If your oxygen saturation level is below 90%, seek medical help immediately, as these levels could quickly lead to life-threatening complications. Levels between 90% and 95% may signify a less severe hypoxia and require immediate action to prevent a more severe case of hypoxia.

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