Best pulse oximeters 2024: Which? Best Buys and expert buying advice - Which? (2024)

Pulse oximeters are small medical devices that let you keep tabs on key health measures such as your blood oxygen levels and pulse rate at home, and share them with your doctor or clinician if needed.

Here, we explain how much pulse oximeters typically cost, the key features worth looking for and how to decide if buying one is right for you.

We also advise on the best places to buy one and include links to our expert pulse oximeter reviews so you can see which models we recommend.

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Best Buy pulse oximeters for 2024

These pulse oximeters came out on top in our testing, producing accurate readings while being comfortable to wear and easy to use.

Compare all the pulse oximeters we've tested with ourpulse oximeter reviews.

Do I need a pulse oximeter?

If you need a pulse oximeter, your doctor will usually advise you to buy one. You might not even need to buy it yourself, as it might be supplied by the NHS, depending on your condition and circ*mstances.

Pulse oximeters are useful monitoring devices to have at home for certain groups of people, such as those who are prone to respiratory failure, suffer from a chronic respiratory condition or require oxygen therapy. For these patients, a drop in oxygen levels could point to something much more serious.

If you're concerned about your respiratory health and think a pulse oximeter would be beneficial, speak to a medical professional first. Pulse oximeters are not a substitute for medical advice, and any at-home monitoring should be part of a clear health management plan.

Are there NHS-approved pulse oximeters?

Don't fall for false claims to be 'NHS approved', which you might spot in some pulse oximeter marketing info.

Our investigation into cheap pulse oximeters sold on online marketplaces revealed a Wild West of uncertified models which didn't have the required CE marks to be sold in the UK, along with products claiming NHS endorsem*nt, which they didn't have.

When we queried this with the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), it told us: ‘The NHS does not approve or endorse any medical devices, including oximeters.' CE or UKCA-certified pulse oximeters will meet MHRA standards and are your best bet - see our pulse oximeter reviews.

How much do pulse oximeters cost?

Pulse oximeters typically cost around £15-30, although prices can vary from £5-50. You don't necessarily have to pay more to get a great model; some of our Best Buys cost less than £20.

If you're after particular features (such as a perfusion index function or a larger, OLED screen), the extra functionality will usually cost you more.

You'll need to account for the cost of batteries too, as all the pulse oximeters we've tested use them - usually AAA, but you may come across some that use AA. The charge can run down quite quickly, especially if you're using it regularly, so it's worth making sure you always have spare batteries to hand if rely on regular readings.

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Pulse oximeter features to look for

Best pulse oximeters 2024: Which? Best Buys and expert buying advice - Which? (1)

While our in-depth reviews can tell you which Best Buy pulse oximeters provide the speediest, most accurate readings – and are most comfortable to use – you might still be baffled by some of the terminology used.

We've listed some of the phrases you might see when you're looking for a pulse oximeter, and what they mean:

  • SpO2 readingA measurement of how much oxygen is in your blood. Every pulse oximeter has this feature, as it's the main thing they're designed to measure. A SpO2 reading of less than 92% (or 88% for those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) can suggest someone is seriously ill and needs immediate medical attention.
  • Pulse rateThe number of times your heart beats per minute. For a healthy adult, this is usually around 60-100bpm. On most pulse oximeters this is displayed as a number, but it can also be in the form of a bar graph or plethysmographic waveform (a continuous curve showing your heart rate).
  • Perfusion indexUsually only pricier pulse oximeters will have this feature. It measures the ratio of pulsating to non-pulsating blood in your finger, and is used as an indication of how strong your blood flow is. Most people are unlikely to need this on a regular basis, and we don't test it in our lab.
  • Display orientationSome pulse oximeters give you the option to rotate the display so it's easier to read when the device is on your finger.
  • OLED screenMost devices have basic LCD screens, but a handful have slightly more advanced OLED screens.

What about smart rings or smartwatches that have pulse oximetry features?

An increasing number of smartwatches and fitness trackers have pulse oximetry features, and there's even a dedicated smart ring for this.

However, it's important to note that these are usually not registered medical devices, and are more for sports-based interest and fitness optimisation than medical monitoring.

You can see our review of the Viatom Sp02 smart ring for our first impressions of this unusual gadget, and check our guide to how wearable tech can help you track your health for more on pulse oximetry features on smartwatches and fitness trackers.

Read our guide to the best blood pressure monitors - we also explain the different types to help you choose

How to use a pulse oximeter effectively

Best pulse oximeters 2024: Which? Best Buys and expert buying advice - Which? (2)

If you've been told by a medical professional that you should use a pulse oximeter at home, you need to make sure you're using it as effectively as possible to get the most accurate picture of your health.

Make sure you thoroughly read the instructions that come with your pulse oximeter, but as a general guide, these tips can help to get accurate readings:

  1. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before using the pulse oximeter. The finger you are going to use shouldn't have any nail varnish or a false nail on it, as these make it hard to obtain an accurate reading.
  2. Ensure your hand is warm to the touch, then sit down and let it rest on your chest for about five minutes before switching on the pulse oximeter.
  3. Attach the clip of the pulse oximeter onto your index finger (the finger next to your thumb) or your middle finger, and wait for the readings to appear on the screen.
  4. Once the numbers have stopped changing and reached a steady average, record your readings. You can then remove the pulse oximeter and put it away until you need it next.

If you ever encounter readings that look slightly out of the ordinary (a little too high or low), take a break before repeating the steps listed above. If it happens again, you should contact your medical provider for further assistance.

For more tips, check the NHS guide to treating Covid at home or this useful NHS video guide to using a pulse oximeter.

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Best pulse oximeters 2024: Which? Best Buys and expert buying advice - Which? (2024)
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