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Do We Need to Prepare an Oximeter at Home During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Do We Need to Prepare an Oximeter at Home During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

The fingertip blood pulse oximeter is a small instrument that is clamped on the finger to monitor the oxygen level in the blood. This kind of equipment, which was originally only available in the hospital, suddenly began to attract everyone's attention because of the the COVID-19 pandemic.


Although fingertip blood pulse oximeters are commonly used in hospitals, the value of using them at home for healthy people is limited. Equipment problems or incorrect use may cause inaccurate readings, so it is not wise to rely solely on fingertip blood pulse oximeters without the comprehensive diagnostic support of medical staff.


1. What is the use of fingertip blood pulse oximeter?


The fingertip blood pulse oximeter is very small. After clamped on the finger, it can measure the pulse and the percentage of oxygen in the blood by shining light on the finger. The normal blood oxygen saturation of a healthy person is about 95 to 100%. If the oxygen level is below this level, there may be lung disease. A level below 92% (88% for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - COPD) indicates a serious condition and may require supplemental oxygen or hospital monitoring.


The fingertip blood pulse oximeters have been common medical devices since the 1970s. They are most commonly used for people with respiratory diseases, and sometimes for athletes and pilots who must monitor blood oxygen levels. They are mainly used for clinical testing and monitoring, but for certain groups of people, they may also be used at home.


2. Can the fingertip blood pulse oximeter diagnose COVID-19?


The answer is negative. A fingertip blood pulse oximeter may detect a problem with blood oxygen levels, which may be related to the coronavirus, but it is only part of a comprehensive diagnosis. Blood oxygen saturation can help clinical decision-making, but it cannot replace clinical evaluation, nor can it replace the diagnosis process.


Some doctors suggest that for patients with suspected symptoms of the COVID-19, whose state of illness is not serious so they don't need to be hospitalized, they can consider using fingertip blood pulse oximeters for monitoring at home.