Best Pulse Oximeter of 2020: Buying Guide and Reviews

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With so many pulse oximetry devices on the market today, it can be a little difficult finding the best pulse oximeter that fits your needs.

Lucky for you, we have put together a list of the best pulse oximeters that are not only great for healthcare professionals like nurses, respiratory therapists, and doctors, but they are great for home use as well.

Best Pulse Oximeters of 2020: Quick Look

For more of our favorite gear recommendations, have a look through these popular HeyScrubs Gear Guide links:

Note: With the spread of coronavirus, or COVID-19, many people are purchasing pulse oximeters. Most store-bought models are for recreational use only and are not intended for medical use. If you suspect coronavirus infection or have an emergency, please call your doctor and get medical attention.

Buying Guide: How to Choose the Best Pulse Oximeter

In this guide, you will learn what a pulse oximeter is, how they work, and why you would need to use one. You’ll also discover the many important features that you need to look for in a pulse oximeter such as accuracy and perfusion index measuring. Let’s get started.

What is a Pulse Oximeter?

A pulse oximeter is a small, non-invasive, lightweight, electronic device that instantly measures the amount of oxygen in the blood, also known as SpO2. A pulse oximeter also records your current pulse rate (PR), meaning the number of times your heart beats per minute.

Pulse oximetry can help people with respiratory or cardiovascular conditions to monitor their health and respond quickly if there is a health problem.

How do Pulse Oximeters Work?

Pulse oximeters clip painlessly to a finger, toe or earlobe. When it is activated, the device releases light from one side, then the light is received by a sensor on the other side of the pulse oximeter.

Because oxygen and hemoglobin absorb light, the amount of light that makes it to the sensor can tell you the proportion of these molecules that exist in the blood. A pulse oximeter determines approximately how many hemoglobin cells are in the blood that moves through the artery closest to the device’s location. It also discerns how many of those cells are bonded with an oxygen molecule.

Once the pulse oximeter completes the measurements, its screen will display your blood oxygen saturation, or SpO2, and your pulse rate.

Which Finger is Best For Pulse Oximeter Readings?

A pulse oximetry study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information and U.S. National Library of Medicine found that using the right middle finger and right thumb gives the most accurate blood oxygen saturation levels and pulse rate when using a finger pulse oximeter.

best pulse oximeters

Types of Pulse Oximeters

  • Fingertip pulse oximeters (most common)
  • Wrist pulse oximeters
  • Handheld pulse oximeters

Why Are Blood Oxygen Levels And Pulse Rates Important?

The body needs oxygen to survive. Without enough of it in the bloodstream, the body won’t function optimally, and you might experience health problems.

A healthy individual’s SpO2 should be 95 percent or greater. If it’s 92 percent or lower, the blood is not well-saturated with oxygen and can cause what is called hypoxemia.

Some symptoms of hypoxemia include:

  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath/trouble breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Disorientation
  • Blue fingernails, skin or lips

Your pulse rate is an estimation of the number of times your heart contracts per minute.

A normal resting pulse for an adult is 60 to 100 beats per minute or bpm. Usually, a lower heart rate indicates that someone is healthier because the heart doesn’t need to contract as frequently to circulate the blood. People with lower heart rates tend to have better cardiovascular fitness and heart function.

For most people, a pulse rate that’s lower than 60 bpm is abnormally slow. This is referred to as bradycardia, and it can cause breathing and memory problems. People with bradycardia may also have fainting spells.

Why Would You Need to Use a Pulse Oximeter?

People with heart or breathing problems can use a pulse oximeter at home to stay on top of their health. Pulse oximeters help patients manage certain conditions with guidance from a healthcare professional. There are several benefits to using a pulse oximeter.

Managing COPD

People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, are usually advised to carry finger pulse oximeters at all times. This disease occurs when the lungs are so damaged that the body can’t heal them. Managing the illness involves using a medication, making lifestyle changes and monitoring their oxygen saturation.

Many people with COPD need to know exactly how much oxygen to titrate to meet their needs. Using a good pulse oximeter can help predict when symptoms will worsen and allow patients and doctors to accurately adjust their oxygen usage.

Asthma Care

Individuals who suffer from asthma may experience issues with their SpO2 levels. Asthma attacks can make it hard to breathe. Detecting fluctuations in SpO2 with a pulse oximeter may be able to predict attacks before they become serious. These patients can then use a rescue inhaler before the attack happens, delivering more effective treatment.

Side Effects from Medications

Some medications, such as opioids, can slow down your breathing to dangerous levels. If you’re taking a drug that has respiratory side effects, you may want to use a pulse oximeter to check your SpO2 levels periodically. A healthcare professional can use them to monitor oxygen saturation when patients are under anesthesia.

Monitoring Your Fitness

The body has trouble maintaining oxygen saturation when you work out, especially if you’re not in great shape. If you have ever pushed yourself to the point of exhaustion while exercising, your oxygen saturation may have plummeted without you knowing it.

For example, endurance athletes bring along a sports use pulse oximeter to make sure that they’re getting consistent oxygen flow throughout the duration of their workout. For many athletes, maximizing efficiency is important. Keeping your oxygen level at the optimal range can improve your performance when you’re exercising. If oxygen saturation levels fluctuate, you can make real-time adjustments, such as doing breathing techniques.

Being in High Altitudes

If you’re planning on taking a hike through the mountains or regularly work out at high altitudes, a good pulse oximeter can help prevent you from experiencing oxygen deprivation issues. Pulse oximetry can predict acute mountain sickness, also known as altitude sickness.

Most instances of altitude sickness are mild, but they can occur when you are 8,000 feet above sea level. Symptoms of acute mountain sickness include dizziness, nausea, and shortness of breath. The condition is more likely to occur when an individual is suffering from hypoxia.

Infants and Newborns

Pulse oximeters are often used in neonatal units to assess respiratory health in infants, especially newborns. Some manufacturers are marketing devices for parents who want to monitor their babies’ breathing overnight. Although doing so may give parents peace of mind, there are no studies indicating that using a pulse oximeter prevents sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS.

Sleep Apnea

This is a disorder that causes interrupted breathing during periods of sleep. It can be caused by physical obstruction, such as the collapse of soft tissues in the airways. However, sometimes, the brain doesn’t send the right signals that tell your body to breathe while you sleep. People with this condition can develop low SpO2 overnight because they don’t take in enough oxygen.

Using a pulse oximeter can help you detect whether your SpO2 levels drop overnight.

Features to Look for in the Best Pulse Oximeters

It can be hard to determine the best pulse oximeters to buy because there are so many in the marketplace. Look for the following characteristics in the pulse oximeter that you decide to purchase.

Accuracy

Many brands guarantee that their pulse oximeter is accurate. Look for accuracy guarantees that fall within ±2 percent of actual blood oxygen saturation levels. The best oximeters should also be accurate to approximately 70 or 80 percent SpO2. If it’s not, it won’t give you the best reading when your oxygen saturation is extremely low.

Some pulse oximeters give you a visual representation of your heartbeat in a plethysmograph waveform. This signal can show that you have an arrhythmia. It can also be weak if the oximeter isn’t working properly.

If you receive an abnormal reading, you might want to clean off the sensors or reposition the pulse oximeter. Then, take another reading.

Pro Tip: Accuracy can be affected by edema, cold extremities, and certain nail polish colors.

Perfusion Index Measurements

The best pulse oximeters measure your perfusion index or PI. This is the ratio of the pulsating blood to the static blood flow in your peripheral tissue like your finger, toes, or ear lobes. It is an indication of how strong your pulse is at the sensor site.

Everyone’s normal PI is variable. If a pulse oximeter includes this measurement, it can help you get a proper assessment of your baseline health so that you can be aware when the reading is off.

Alerts and Warnings

The pulse oximeter should alert you when there is an abnormal reading. You need to know when your heartbeat isn’t steady. An irregular heartbeat indicates that you have an arrhythmia and could be cause for concern.

You should also get a warning when your SpO2 levels are low. Many devices beep or buzz to indicate abnormal levels of oxygen saturation. An audible warning can help if you’re using the device at night or unable to see the display for any reason.

A low battery warning will also help you ensure that the pulse oximeter is working optimally. It’s especially important if you use the pulse oximeter regularly or rely on it to manage a health condition.

Size and Portability

Many people who use pulse oximeters need to carry them at all times. Therefore, the device needs to be portable and small enough to wear around your neck or in your pocket. Some people choose to wear them on a belt holster or stash them in their purse.

Weight

Although many good pulse oximeters are small and portable, some are heavy, making them uncomfortable to use. If you’re already weak because you have respiratory issues, you might have trouble using a heavy device. Athletes might also prefer a lightweight oximeter so that they can wear it at the gym or while running.

Heavy pulse oximeters are more likely to be dropped. They’re also more prone to damage if they fall to the floor.

Durability

If you require constant blood oxygen monitoring, you need a good pulse oximeter that stands up to regular usage. Look for one that can withstand accidental drops or mishandling.

A water-resistant product is also beneficial because humidity can affect the readings.

Fit

Some pulse oximeters are adjustable. These come in handy if you have particularly large or small fingers. A standard unit that’s designed for adults may not fit a child. If it doesn’t fit properly, it won’t deliver an accurate reading.

Look for a device that’s designed for your size. Children will usually get the most precise readings when using an oximeter that’s designed for them.

Easy-to-Read Display

You might want to consider buying a pulse oximeter with a backlit display. These come in a variety of colors and styles. The one that you choose comes down to personal preference.

A pulse oximeter with adjustable brightness settings is ideal if you’ll be using it in different lighting conditions. One that offers multiple viewing angles is easy to read and can prevent you from straining to see it. A multi-directional screen can also allow you to switch the view to show the results to a caregiver.

Recording Capabilities

Some pulse oximeters have recording capabilities via wired or wireless technology to access your data history of SpO2 levels and heart rate.

It can be helpful for optimizing exercise performance, tracking sleep quality, or for your doctor if they need to monitor your levels for any reason.

The Best Pulse Oximeters of 2020 Reviews

Now that you know the basics of what to look for in the best pulse oximeters, you can start browsing for one that fits your exact needs. Whether you’re purchasing a pulse oximeter for personal or professional use, we’ve broken down the features and details of the oximeters we would recommend by various categories.

Best Overall

Innovo Deluxe Fingertip Pulse Oximeter with Plethysmograph and PI


PROS: Comes with PI, a plethysmograph, programmable alarms, OLED display, you can adjust brightness and is hypoallergenic.

CONS: May not work for kids or adults with small fingers and movement can throw off reading.

Tech Specs

  • SpO2 Accuracy: ±1%
  • SpO2 Range: 35%-100%
  • PR Accuracy: ±1 bpm
  • PR Range: 25bpm-250bpm
  • Battery Life: 40 hours

Rising to the top of our rankings of the best finger pulse oximeters in 2020 is the Innovo Deluxe for its accuracy, versatility, and value. It combines all the best features that you should look for in an oximeter.

This device features a clear and readable multi-directional OLED display, which offers 6 different layout options to view your measured SpO2 levels.

Innovo calls this one of the world’s most accurate pulse oximeters because it includes three important features, a plethysmograph, PI, and the device’s new improved sensor. The plethysmograph measures the change in the volume of the arterial blood and will inform you when pulse oximeter is optimized and ready for reading. The PI provides data on pulse strength.

The data from these features help to improve the accuracy of the readings dramatically, even with small movements that would normally throw off a reading.

One of our favorite aspects of the Innovo Deluxe is the new software feature with programmable alarms. An alarm can be set to go off when your SpO2 and heart rate levels are beyond set limits. You can also set an auditory beep for each detected pulse beat.

Finally, this pulse oximeter comes with a 1-year warranty, 2 AAA batteries, a wrist strap lanyard, and is hypoallergenic.

VIEW AT AMAZON


Best Pediatric Pulse Oximeter

Deluxe SM-110 Two Way Display Finger Pulse Oximeter

PROS: Can be used on children and adults, it’s easy to read with a 2-way display, is latex-free, hypoallergenic, and has a low battery indicator.

CONS: It doesn’t make warning sounds or have any audio indicators, and it doesn’t record continuously (while you’re sleeping, for example).

Tech Specs

  • SpO2 Accuracy: ±1%
  • SpO2 Range: 35%-99%
  • PR Accuracy: ±1 bpm
  • PR Range: 30bpm-235bpm

The Deluxe SM-110 fingertip pulse oximeter is high on our list for its portability, versatility, and ease of use. It accommodates a wide range of finger sizes, including children. You won’t need to buy more than one to use on different family members or patients.

Everything about this oximeter is convenient. The LED screen display is large, with red lighting on a black background. It’s easy to read and can be viewed from two directions. The default mode displays the numbers facing the user. Press a button to alternate the display and have it face the other way.

It can be toted along with you no matter what activity you’re doing. This pulse oximeter comes with a cord to hang it around your wrist or neck. It also comes with a carrying case that clips to your belt loop and protects the device.

Its durability is guaranteed by a two-year warranty. This is especially helpful if you’re active and take your device outdoors on your adventures.

The finger chamber is lined with latex-free silicone, which is hypoallergenic and should prevent irritation.

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Zacurate Pro Series 500DL Fingertip Pulse Oximeter Blood Oxygen Saturation Monitor with Silicone Cover, Batteries and Lanyard

PROS: Reads and displays SpO2 levels up to 100 percent, works well in any lighting conditions with a bright red LED, finger chamber is hypoallergenic and comes with a silicone carrying case.

PROS: Not ideal for ages 12 and under, and the display is only oriented in one direction.

Tech Specs

  • SpO2 Accuracy: ±1%
  • SpO2  Range: 70%-100%
  • PR Accuracy: ±1 bpm
  • PR Range: 30bpm-235bpm
  • Battery Life: 40 hours

The Zacurate Pro Series 500DL is one of our go-to fingertip pulse oximeters because it provides an accurate reading in any environment. Test results indicate that it works just as well in a brightly lit room as in a dark one. The manufacturer claims that this is the only finger pulse oximeter that reads and displays up to 100 percent SpO2 levels. Most of the others read up to 99 percent. The large LED display is also a plus.

Another feature that we like is its low battery indicator. Each time the device is turned on it will warn you if the battery life is low. This will be indicated by a battery icon on the LED display.

Zacurate also has what they call the SMART Spring System, this accommodates a wide range of adult finger sizes (ages 12 and up).

Not only does this oximeter come with 2 AAA batteries, it also comes with a silicone cover to prevent dirt build-up and a lanyard to keep it safe on you at all times.

The manufacturer also provides a 12-month warranty for the pulse oximeter as well as technical phone support.

VIEW AT AMAZON


Santamedical Generation 2 Fingertip Pulse Oximeter Oximetry Blood Oxygen Saturation Monitor with Batteries and Lanyard


PROS: For adults and children, has a multi-directional display, has a plethysmograph, is latex-free, and is also extremely small and lightweight.

CONS: Not as accurate as our top picks, doesn’t have an alarm setting and doesn’t show heart rate accurately if you’re moving.

Tech Specs

  • SpO2 Accuracy: ±2%
  • SpO2 Max Range: Up to 100%
  • PR Accuracy: ±2 bpm
  • PR Range: 30bpm-250bpm

This fingertip pulse oximeter is accurate and reliable. The OLED display is clear and bright, but it’s smaller than the previous devices reviewed here. Instead of using red numbers on a black screen, it features blue numbers and yellow indicators. However, the display can be viewed from 4 directions and with 6 different modes so viewing your results will be seamless.

This pulse oximeter also features a plethysmograph to provide optimal readings.

The lanyard can be worn around the neck or the wrist, and a carrying case protects the device when you’re on the move. One set of batteries (which comes with the device) provides more than 30 hours of continuous monitoring. The auto shut-off prevents the batteries from being wasted, but you won’t be able to use this overnight.

This device also comes with a 1-year warranty and friendly customer service.

VIEW AT AMAZON


Best Bluetooth Pulse Oximeter

iHealth Air Wireless Fingertip Pulse Oximeter with Plethysmograph and PI


PROS: Has PI measurement, Bluetooth Smart Technology, a rechargeable battery, and is also HIPPA and FDA approved.

CONS: It’s only intended for use in people ages 16 and over, may not work well for people with poor circulation, and it doesn’t monitor continuously.

Tech Specs

  • SpO2 Accuracy: ±2%
  • SpO2 Range: 70%-99%
  • PR Accuracy: ±2 bpm
  • PR Range: 30bpm-250bpm

The iHealth fingertip pulse oximeter tops our list of Bluetooth pulse oximeters for its ease of use and accuracy. It comes featured with a PI and a plethysmograph. and is approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

If you’re going to bother with a handheld pulse oximeter, we think that using a mobile device is the way to go. Most people bring their phones everywhere. Therefore, if you’re using this personally, you don’t have to remember to bring as many pieces of equipment if you’re leaving the house.

Because this works with an app on your phone, though, you might not want to use this if you’re a healthcare provider. You may not want to store patients’ information on your phone. However, if you do, you should know that the app and the device are HIPAA compliant.

Also, with the iHealth Myvtials App, you can easily see the history data of your SpO2 and pulse rate. This can be a very useful tool for you and your healthcare provider.

Although the Bluetooth feature would make this ideal for use at night, this pulse oximeter doesn’t have a continuous recording capability.

And last but not least, we love that this oximeter comes with a built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery charged by a micro USB cable.

VIEW AT AMAZON


Best Infant Pulse Oximeter

Owlet Smart Green Sock Baby Monitor

PROS: Works with iOS and Android devices, BPA and Lead-Free, and has a long battery life.

CONS: Can cause foot irritation if not alternated to different foot each night.

Tech Specs

  • SpO2 Accuracy: ±3%
  • SpO2 Range: 70%-100%
  • PR Accuracy: ±5 bpm
  • PR Range: 60bpm-220-bpm
  • Battery Life: 18 hours

The Owlet Smart Green Sock Baby Monitor for infants is our favorite pulse oximeter for parents who want to watch over their little ones at night.

Unlike traditional baby monitors, the Smart Sock sends real-time readings and notifications of your child’s level of oxygen saturation and heart rate directly to the Owlet app on your phone.

Our absolute favorite feature of this pulse oximeter is that it sends this information to a base station, that you can places anywhere within a 100ft of the Smart Sock, which is designed to notify you with lights and sounds if something appears to be wrong.

Another great thing about this device is that it features historical trends for heart rate and oxygen and sleep tracking to make sure your baby is sleeping well at night.

It comes with 3 different sizes of Smart Socks to fit infants 6-25 lbs and will only take 4 hours to charge.

VIEW AT AMAZON


Conclusion

All the pulse oximeters listed above each have their own features that they bring to the table, the best overall roundup winner is the Innovo Deluxe Fingertip Pulse Oximeter. Providing the most accurate reading at ±1% on both levels of oxygen saturation and heart rates along with the addition of PI measuring, this in our opinion, is the best pulse oximeter available on the market right now in 2020.

If you have experience with these devices, what do you think are the best pulse oximeters on the market right now? Let us know in the comments below!

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