How to Use a Pulse Oximeter to Measure Your Blood Oxygen

These tools can help you better understand your health.

By Ashley Vogt Davids
Photo of an older woman using a pule ox.

All month long, Dr. Oz is bringing you a COVID-19 Defense Plan to help you stay as healthy as possible. From tips on nutritious eating, to simple plans that’ll get you up and exercising, Dr. Oz is sharing smart ways to take control of your health.

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Nov. 18, 2020 — 6 a.m. EST

Monitoring your health has never been more important than it is now. By now, you’re probably familiar with the ways to keep yourself safe during the COVID-19 pandemic: wear a mask, wash your hands, keep a social distance of six feet and keep events and meetings outdoors. While these things will help shield you from the virus, they’re not very useful for understanding the metrics of your health. Nothing beats a trip to the doctor’s office or getting a COVID-19 test, however, there are some tools you can keep at home to monitor your health during the pandemic. Some of which, you may already have at home.

To help you get started, Dr. Sampson Davis came on The Dr. Oz Show on November 18, 2020, to share a few items worth keeping in your COVID-19 defense toolbox. Here are three products that can help you determine whether it’s time to go see a doctor.

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Pulse Oximeter

A pulse oximeter or pulse ox is a little gadget that clips on the tip of your finger and reads your blood oxygen. Normal blood oxygen levels hover between 95% - 100%. However, if you have COVID-19 your blood oxygen can dip to dangerous levels.

“Sometimes with COVID, people feel fine but don’t know there could be issues with their lungs,” Dr. Sampson explains. “If you have a pulse ox, you can find out if you have low blood oxygen levels, which can indicate that there may be an issue with your lungs or circulation.”

A pulse ox isn’t enough to diagnose COVID-19 but levels below 95% should be taken as a sign you need medical care. Pulse oximeters are generally affordable and easy to use. Once you have a pulse ox, warm up your fingers, remove any nail polish, and sit with both feet on the ground. Place the device on your finger and let it sit for a minute. You will see two numbers light up — the top number is saturation percentage and the bottom is your pulse rate. Normal rates for both are between 95% to 100%. You can find one online or at your local drugstore.

Blood Pressure Monitor

It’s always helpful to monitor your blood pressure as high blood pressure is indicative of hypertension and puts you at risk of heart disease. According to the CDC, high blood pressure may also increase your risk of getting severely ill from COVID-19. If high blood pressure goes untreated, it can cause a heart attack or stroke.

“Anything over 130 over 80 is high blood pressure, and should be discussed and monitored with your doctor,” Dr. Oz says. If you have anything near 180, you need to call 911.

If you’re a woman and have been socially isolating from others, now is a great time to check your blood pressure. New research shows that women who have been socially isolating are at a higher risk of having high blood pressure.

Measuring Tape

Chances are you already have this one at home in a sewing kit or your medicine cabinet. Using this tool can help you understand if your weight is healthy for your height. First, measure your waist, wrapping the tape around your belly button, in inches. Then measure, or convert, your height in inches. A healthy waist measurement is less than half your height. Remember, these formulas may be helpful for determining your overall health, but only your doctor can determine if your weight is affecting your health in a serious way.

While these tools don’t replace a trip to the doctor, they can help you decide when it’s time to see one. Fortunately, most doctors are offering telehealth visits, so if it’s time to see a medical professional, the good news is you can do it from the comfort of your own home.

COVID-19 defense plan.

Article written by Ashley Vogt Davids