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Pulse oximeters are usually found in doctor’s offices and hospitals, but you can also use them at home. Several brands are available so that you can easily check your blood oxygen saturation from the comfort of your home.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a renewed interest in pulse oximeters for home use, there are several other reasons why you might consider investing in your own device to have on hand. It may also provide better peace of mind.

The American Lung Association says that your oxygen saturation level should be over 90 to 92 percent. Checking that your oxygen saturation level is above the recommended level can help you determine whether you need to seek emergency medical attention. Such cases may be brought on by acute illnesses, such as pneumonia, or flareups of chronic conditions, such as asthma. Oximeters may also be useful for extreme sports.

We look at eight pulse oximeters you can buy and how to make the most of these devices. It’s important to discuss these with your doctor so you know when to use them, and when to seek medical care.

Here, we focused on over-the-counter (OTC) oximeters made to be used at home and by people who aren’t healthcare professionals.

Keep in mind that these consumer devices aren’t reviewed and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the same way as prescription pulse oximeters. They’re meant for spot checks and are designed to be smaller, cheaper, and easier to use. Some may have special features that suit your day-to-day needs.

Overall, we chose the best finger pulse oximeters based on:

  • ease of use
  • overall cost
  • accuracy rates
  • display options
  • age recommendations
  • comfort and size
  • customer reviews and ratings
  • clinical testing

Pricing guide

General price ranges with dollar signs ($ to $$$) are indicated below. One dollar sign means the product is rather affordable, whereas three dollar signs indicate a higher cost.

  • $ = under $25
  • $$ = $25–$100
  • $$$ = over $100

Best for multiple display options

Innovo Premium iP900BP Pulse Oximeter

Price: $$

This device has a few more display options and features than other finger pulse oximeters, including:

  • A waveform display. You can see a visual representation of your heartbeat and blood flow.
  • Perfusion index. This is a number that shows the strength of your pulse. If it’s low, you can adjust the machine or placement of the probe to get the most accurate oxygen saturation reading.
  • Brightness adjustment. You can choose from 10 brightness levels to more easily read the display screen.
  • Multidirectional display. You can rotate the display in six different ways. This also helps with readability.

A few customers note that this device may not be suitable for users with small or large fingers.

Best for ease of use

Walgreens Pulse Oximeter

Price: $$

  • Multiple functions. This device measures oxygen saturation level and heart rate.
  • Easy to use. It’s lightweight, provides one-button operation, and automatically powers off.
  • Visibility. It has an easy-to-read screen with adjustable brightness and can be viewed from all sides.

This fingertip pulse oximeter for personal use is portable and comes in a sporty bright yellow. It has more than 3,900 ratings on the Walgreens website, with an average of 4.5 stars.

While easy to use on the go, this may not be the best device for medical purposes, as the manufacturer recommends it for recreational and sports use. Acrylic nails, as well as fingernail polish, may also obscure readings.

Best for both children and adults

CVS Health Portable Pulse Oximeter

Price: $$

  • Multiple functions. The device measures oxygen saturation level and pulse rate.
  • Easy to use. It has comfortable padding, one-button operation, an automatic switch off, and is lightweight.
  • Visibility. It has a screen with adjustable brightness, which can be viewed from all sides.
  • Slip-resistant grip. This makes it easier for children to use.

This pulse oximeter is designed to fit all finger sizes, from kids to adults. However, a few customers note experiences with inaccurate results from this particular device.

Best for babies

Wellue BabyO2

Price: $$$

  • Ease of use. This device synchronizes to a smartphone app, so you can monitor your baby’s blood oxygen levels at night or anytime without disturbing them.
  • Comfort and style. It comes in a light blue color and has breathable fabric straps that fit like a sock.
  • Alarms. Both the oximeter and the app have an adjustable alarm that will alert you if blood oxygen readings are low.
  • Smartphone compatibility. Unlike most other home pulse oximeters, this device pairs with an app you can download on your smartphone to keep track of your baby’s results. You can then easily share them with your child’s pediatrician.

The Wellue BabyO2 is made to monitor your baby’s blood oxygen levels as they sleep. It’s designed with adjustable straps, so you can easily place the monitor on your baby’s lower leg, ankle, or foot.

The device has a 5-star rating on the Wellue website. Customers say it gives an accurate reading for babies. This can be especially important if your baby has sleep apnea or other conditions that may cause low blood oxygen levels. On Amazon, this product has a rating of 3.9 out of 5 stars.

The Wellue BabyO2 is designed for babies up to 3 years old.

Best price

Metene Fingertip Pulse Oximeter

Price: $

  • Multiple functions. It measures blood oxygen saturation level and pulse.
  • Easy to use. It’s lightweight, has one-button operation, works in 8 seconds, and has automatic power off.
  • Alarm. It has an alarm and flashing screen to tell you if it gets a reading that’s out of range.
  • Visibility. It has a screen with adjustable brightness, which can be viewed from all sides.

The manufacturer says this device contains a microcontroller unit, or MCU, chip that gives accurate blood oxygen levels. MCU chips are standard components that allow pulse oximeters to work.

This pulse oximeter has more than 1,000 ratings and is rated 4.7 out of 5 stars. Overall, customers report accurate results and ease of use for the price.

Best clinically tested brands

A very small clinical study from 2016 tested 6 low cost home pulse oximeters. The researchers found that 2 brands had devices with an error rate of less than 3 percent: the Contec CMS50DL and Beijing Choice C20.

None of the oximeters in the study had digital or analog displays, so the study participants recorded readings manually at the time.

A major difference between the models tested in the study and the two recommended here is that the current models from both brands have displays to show you your readings.

Contec CMS50DL Pulse Oximeter

Price: $

  • Multiple functions. It measures oxygen saturation level and heart rate.
  • Easy to use. Users find the light-up display numbers large enough to read.
  • Long lasting battery power. The manufacturer claims the device can last for 30 hours on each set of batteries.

Most users find this device to be simple to use and a good value. Some users have received units with battery terminals incorrectly placed and returned or exchanged them.

ChoiceMMed Pulse Oximeter

Price: $$

  • Multiple functions. It measures oxygen saturation level and heart rate.
  • Easy to use. Users report accurate readings from this model, though it may not be the fastest.
  • Fits multiple finger sizes. According to the manufacturer, this device is suitable for both adults and children.

In the 2016 study mentioned above, the other low cost pulse oximeter that researchers found to be accurate was the Beijing Choice C20.

The Beijing Choice Electronic Tech company is the manufacturer behind the ChoiceMMed brand, which currently sells other easy-to-use devices, like this one.

While customers report that this device is easy to use, a few also noted inaccurate results.

Pulse oximeters have light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, on the inside of the probe. These LEDs give off a red light, or more than one color of light. The light shines through the tissues of your fingertip, and the sensor on the other side picks up the light that comes through.

Pulse oximeters measure how much light comes through your finger to estimate how many of your blood cells are carrying oxygen. This reading is called oxygen saturation, or SpO2, and displays a percentage.

A pulse oximeter reading is an estimate and may not always be accurate. As the light travels through your fingernail and tissue, several things can affect the accuracy of the SpO2 reading, including:

  • Skin color. Skin with more pigment may cause some pulse oximeters to give slightly higher readings.
  • Conditions that cause circulation problems. Poor blood circulation in your hands and fingers may cause lower readings.
  • Cold hands. Having cold hands may cause lower readings.
  • Wet skin. Water or sweat on the skin may reflect the light and affect the measurement.
  • Thick fingernails. Thick nails can block the light penetration and may cause lower readings.
  • Fingernail polish. Black, blue, and green nail polish may cause significantly lower readings.
  • Bruises or tattoos on the fingertips. Both may cause inaccurate readings. Try choosing a different finger or limb for a more accurate reading.

Home pulse oximeters may not be as accurate as medical-grade devices, but many can give you a good estimate of your blood oxygen saturation levels. Plus, at-home devices are designed to be easy to use.

The accuracy of a reading depends on the device and whether you’re using it properly. (Below, see tips on how to best use your home pulse oximeter device.)

According to a 2016 study, some pulse oximeters that are not approved by the FDA can produce large errors (an average of 6.3 percent lower than actual or 4.3 percent higher than actual) with blood oxygen saturation measurements.

A pulse oximeter that has an error rate of less than 3 percent is considered to be accurate.

A 2019 study suggests that home pulse oximeters with one light may be more accurate than those with more than one light.

A blood oxygen saturation level of 95 to 100 percent on your pulse oximeter is a typical reading for healthy adults and kids.

If your reading is lower than this more than once, contact your doctor right away.

Signs of low blood oxygen levels
  • difficulty breathing
  • fast breathing
  • shallow breathing
  • sucking in the stomach when breathing
  • confusion
  • difficulty waking up
  • blue-tinged lips or face

No matter what your finger pulse oximeter says, seek emergency medical attention if you or your child has any signs of low blood oxygen levels, or hypoxemia.

  • Make sure your hands aren’t too cold, hot, wet, or sweaty.
  • Keep your hand and fingers still. Don’t move while you’re taking the reading.
  • Avoid placing the pulse oximeter probe on a fingernail that has nail polish or on tattooed skin.

Learn more about how to use a finger pulse oximeter here.

  • If you need a pulse oximeter for the whole family, make sure it fits a child’s small fingers.
  • Check to see if the device is FDA-approved, or tested to ensure accuracy.
  • Take a look at the product’s ratings and any customer reviews.
  • Most finger pulse oximeters are for spot checks. If you need continuous monitoring, ask your pharmacy about medical-grade oximeters for at-home use.

At this time, the most accurate ways to measure blood oxygen levels are through pulse oximeters or arterial blood samples.

Speak with your doctor or another healthcare professional for more information on monitoring your blood oxygen levels.