What is a pulse oximeter? Why do so many people buy one? : Goats and Soda: NPR

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A pulse oximeter provides a quick reading of your blood’s oxygen saturation. Some doctors believe it is a useful device to have at home during the coronavirus pandemic. Others are not so sure.

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A pulse oximeter provides a quick reading of your blood’s oxygen saturation. Some doctors believe it is a useful device to have at home during the coronavirus pandemic. Others are not so sure.

vgajic / Getty Images

Every week we answer some of your urgent questions about coronavirus and how to stay safe. Email your questions to [email protected] with the subject: “Weekly questions on coronaviruses”. This week we are considering questions about pulse oximeters.

As the coronavirus continues to spread, a small medical device called a pulse oximeter has started to steal shelves. In fact, demand has reached such an extraordinary level that you may not be able to purchase one from your local pharmacy or online.

What is the value of the device during this pandemic? Do you need it at home? The first question is relatively easy to answer. The second is a little more complicated.

What is that?

A pulse oximeter is a small electronic device that measures the oxygen saturation of your blood. You want a number between 95% and 100%. If the number drops to 92% or less, this is a concern. This is usually the level where a doctor can put you on extra oxygen and keep you in the hospital for observation.

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