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Finger pulse oximeters are usually found at doctors’ offices and hospitals, but what you may not know is that you can also buy one to use at home. There are several different brands and designs available so that you can easily check your blood oxygen saturation levels 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 many other reasons why you might consider investing in your own device to have on hand. For example, conditions like hypoxemia can result in low blood oxygen levels, and having a finger pulse oximeter at home could provide better peace of mind.

If you’re thinking about purchasing an at-home finger pulse oximeter, it’s important to discuss with your doctor when you should use it, how to interpret the results, and when to seek medical care.

Finding the right device for your needs may take some time, and you may be wondering what the difference is between all of these different devices. So, to help make your search a little easier, we’ve compiled our top picks of the eight best finger pulse oximeters so you can start tracking your levels quickly and easily from home.

Pulse oximeters are most commonly worn on your finger and are completely painless to use. These devices have light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, on the inside of the probe that can send small beams of light through your finger to track the amount of oxygen in your blood. The light shines through the tissues of your fingertip, and the sensor on the other side picks up the light that comes through.

Finger pulse oximeters can then measure how much light comes through your finger to estimate how many of your red blood cells are carrying oxygen. This type of reading is called oxygen saturation, or SpO2, and the results display as a percentage.

Readings should typically fall between 95 and 100 percent, with readings at 92 percent or below potentially indicating that there isn’t enough oxygen in your blood. If your finger pulse oximeter reading is below 90 percent, try testing again — in case there was a testing error — or consider contacting your doctor.

The American Lung Association also 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, like pneumonia, or flare-ups of chronic conditions, like asthma. Oximeters may also be useful for extreme sports.

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.

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 also 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: $$
  • Battery: 2 AAA batteries included

This finger pulse oximeter has a few more display options and features than other finger pulse oximeters on the list. One such feature is a waveform display, which lets you see a visual representation of your heartbeat and blood flow. It also includes a perfusion index (a number that shows the strength of your pulse) so that you will know if you need to adjust the placement of the probe to get the most accurate oxygen saturation reading.

This pulse oximeter also has a multidirectional display that can rotate in six different directions and display at 10 different brightness levels to help with readability. A few customers did note that this device may not be suitable for users with small or large fingers.

Pros

  • multi-directional display
  • perfusion index
  • batteries included and ready for immediate use

Cons

  • may be too large for smaller fingers
  • display was too small for some users

Best for ease of use

Walgreens Pulse Oximeter

  • Price: $$
  • Battery: 2 AAA batteries included

This portable fingertip pulse oximeter comes in bright yellow, so it’s easier to spot around the house. It has more than 3,900 ratings on the Walgreens website, with an average of 4.5 stars. This device measures your oxygen saturation level and heart rate, then displays the results on an easy-to-read screen with adjustable brightness. It’s also lightweight, provides one-button operation, and automatically powers off.

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.

Pros

  • lightweight and colorful design
  • batteries included
  • one-touch operation

Cons

  • intended for recreational readings
  • no perfusion index

Best for both children and adults

CVS Health Portable Pulse Oximeter

  • Price: $$
  • Battery: 2 AAA batteries included

This pulse oximeter is designed to fit all finger sizes, from kids to adults, and measures your oxygen saturation level and pulse rate. It features internal finger padding and a slip-resistant grip, which can be helpful when trying to get a reading from a squiggly child. This device can also switch off automatically to save battery life and features one-button operation. But a new customer notes experiencing inaccurate results from this particular device.

Pros

  • lanyard and carry case included
  • slip-resistant grip
  • automatic shut-off

Cons

  • readings may be inaccurate if taken in motion
  • pricey for some budgets

Best for portability

Metene Fingertip Pulse Oximeter

  • Price: $
  • Battery: 2 AAA batteries included

The Metene Fingertip Pulse Oximeter is lightweight and very portable due to its carrying case with a built-in belt loop, making it easy to take with you all day. Using one button to activate the device, you can measure your blood oxygen saturation level and have a clear reading in about 8 seconds. It also comes equipped with an alarm (and flashing screen) to let you know that your reading was out of range. Two AAA batteries are included along with a lanyard, which is a nice inclusion considering the device’s lower price compared to other finger pulse oximeters on this list.

Pros

  • affordably priced
  • carrying case with belt loop
  • fast readings
  • batteries included

Cons

  • may not get a reading on first try
  • not recommend if exact readings are medically required

Best for budget

Contec CMS50DL Pulse Oximeter – Needs Vetting

  • Price: $
  • Battery: 2 AAA batteries (not included)

If you’re looking for a straightforward finger pulse oximeter that can give you a quick reading at an affordable price, this might be a good choice for you. It measures your oxygen saturation level and features a bar graph that shows your pulse in real-time. Your results are clearly visible on the device’s digital face with numbers that are bright and easy to read. Each reading can be initiated with one quick button press and is designed for low energy consumption so that you can get the most out of your batteries. But make sure to pick up a pack of AAA batteries with this finger pulse oximeter because batteries aren’t included.

Pros

  • very affordable price
  • live graph of pulse rate
  • clear and easy to read results

Cons

  • batteries aren’t included
  • may not last as long as other devices on this list

Best for easy to read results

ChoiceMMed Pulse Oximeter

  • Price: $$
  • Battery: 2 AAA batteries included

This finger pulse oximeter is designed to comfortably fit both adults and children with a silicone padding that helps hold the device in place. It measures your oxygen saturation level and heart rate, with easy-to-read results being very clearly shown on the device’s high-definition, OLED display. This oximeter also comes with its own lanyard and carrying case. While customers report that this device is easy to use, a few also noted inaccurate results.

Pros

  • comfortable fit
  • portable with carrying case and lanyard
  • batteries included
  • high definition display screen

Cons

  • recommended primarily for sports and aviation use
  • users may find slight variations in results

  • 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.

  • 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.

How accurate are finger pulse oximeters?

At-home devices are designed to be easy to use but may not be as accurate as medical-grade devices. The accuracy of a reading can also depend on the device and whether you’re using it properly.

But these at-home devices can give you a good estimate of your blood oxygen saturation levels. In fact, a 2021 study found that while the accuracy of some at-home oximeters fell short of the ISO standards required for clearance by the FDA, they could still accurately rule out the possibility of hypoxemia.

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, or 4.3 percent higher, than the actual result) with blood oxygen saturation measurements.

What can affect pulse oximetry readings?

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 inaccurate readings. A 2020 study found similar supporting results.
  • 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.

I have dark skin. Can I still use a pulse oximeter?

The short answer is yes. While the FDA has found that pulse oximeters may have a higher risk of inaccurate numbers when used on skin with more pigment, these devices can still help you monitor your health.

If you want to monitor your blood oxygen levels, watch for trends in your readings, like if the readings show percentage levels that decrease or drop.

There are many finger pulse oximeters available for at-home use, and knowing how you will use the device will help inform your decision. While they may not be 100-percent accurate in their readings, these oximeters could still be a very helpful tool if you’re tracking your blood oxygen level and pulse for exercise or personal use.

But if you need to track your blood oxygen levels for medical reasons, consider looking for medical-grade, FDA-approved devices, or talk with your doctor or local pharmacy so they can recommend the most accurate finger pulse oximeters.