If you are a regular user of the pulse oximeter, you may wonder what are the things that you could do to improve its accuracy. Pulse oximeters are devices that are used at home and in hospitals to measure blood oxygen levels as well as pulse rates. Pulse oximeters do this through the use of infrared light that helps detect how much oxygen is being carried by the user’s blood. They are very easy to use and typically just need to be clipped to the user’s hand for them to work.
In order to use these useful devices properly and to ensure an accurate reading, here are some tips that you can implement.
Use Physical Observation
Whether the readings you are taking are yours or someone else’s, one of the important rules when using a pulse oximeter is to factor your own observations in. For example, when blood oxygen levels are low, it causes certain parts of our body to turn blue. These include the skin as well as fingers. Observing such symptoms in someone else or yourself should be an indicator that the body is starved of oxygen, regardless of what the pulse oximeter may be reading. If you are taking a child’s blood oxygen levels, observe how they are behaving; are they lethargic? Do they lack their usual playful zeal? All these are observations that could tell you that the readings may not be accurate.
Change the Finger
If there is a contradiction between what you are observing and what the pulse oximeter is reading, you should try using another finger. Keep in mind that nail coatings can affect the accuracy of the pulse oximeter. If you keep getting readings that are off, use a finger with a nail that is not coated or you can even take off the nail coating on a specific finger for the purpose of doing this test.
Check Heart Rate
There is an inverse relationship between blood oxygen levels and heart rate. The heart is the organ that pumps blood throughout the body and carries with it the oxygen that the body needs. When blood oxygen levels drop, it triggers a signal to the heart to beat faster in order to compensate for the shortfall. Therefore, in many cases, low blood oxygen levels are accompanied by a fast heart rate. The normal resting heart rate for adults is between 60 and 100 beats per minute (BPM). If your heart rate is outside these parameters, it might warrant further investigation into your blood oxygen levels. Although it is not definitive proof, it will be one more clue to the fact that your pulse oximeter may not be very accurate.
Look at the Pleth
If your pulse oximeter has a pleth, it could be a good indicator of whether you are using the device correctly or not. Pleth can either be a column of lights or a wavy line on the screen on the device. Since pulse oximeter readings can be affected by movement, the pleth can indicate if this is the case. If the lights or waveform is not steady, chances are that the readings might have errors.