Do you use a pulse oximeter or blood oxygen saturation monitor? If so, you may be wondering how to optimize its use. Or if it does not seem to be working, you may be looking for some troubleshooting advice. In this article, we will be discussing ways you can get the most out of your pulse oximeter by troubleshooting when you know the device is still functioning, but are unsure what has gone wrong.
How Does A Pulse Oximeter Work?
Before we get into anything, it is important to first understand how a pulse oximeter works. Attached to a body part such as the wrist or finger, pulse oximeters are a convenient, noninvasive way of measuring blood oxygen saturation. Commonly used by sufferers of sleep apnea and other conditions that affect blood flow, pulse oximeters deliver quick responses that enable you to record even the smallest changes to oxygen levels in your blood by taking readings from various parts of your body. This is particularly useful for patients with chronic illnesses, or who have just received an organ transplant and need to monitor the level of oxygen their new organ is getting.
Troubleshoot Your Fingertip Pulse Oximeter
If your fingertip pulse oximeter does not seem to be delivering accurate readings yet you are sure the device is functioning properly, there may be one of a few problems going on.
- You are not using it correctly: Fingertip pulse oximeters are not meant to be used for continuous monitoring. If you have been using your fingertip pulse oximeter overnight, you may receive inaccurate readings as this is not the intended use of this device.
- Your fingers are too cold: As having an accurate reading depends on the normal flow of blood through the tissue on the surface of your skin, cold fingers that result in reduced blood flow tend to skew results, giving abnormal readings. The good news is that this problem is easily taken care of by warming up your fingers to improve blood flow. To resolve this, simply run your hands under warm water or rub them together and the reading will go back to normal soon enough.
- You have nail polish or artificial nails on: Although it may seem straightforward to just get your nail polish or artificial nails removed, sometimes it cannot be done immediately. Gel nail polish and certain artificial nails cannot even be removed at home, and unless you can run down to the nail salon on short notice, you can try turning your fingertip pulse oximeter by 90 degrees to get a more accurate reading.
- You are a smoker: The amount of oxygen that reaches your bloodstream and tissues is reduced when you smoke. This can result in an inaccurate reading on your pulse oximeter. It is inevitable that smoking can result in shortness of breath, hence if for some reason you cannot or do not want to quit, frequent exercise and training can help to boost your oxygen saturation levels.