How to use an NHS-approved pulse oximeter including the best ones to buy (2024)

Braun Healthcare Pulse Oximeter
Salter Finger Tip Pulse Oximeter
ViATOM Pulse Oximeter
aCurio Pulse Oximeter
Med Linket CE Approved Oxygen Saturation Monitor 5-in-1
C.G.C Healthcare Pulse Oximeter
TRAN Pulse Oximeter

We talk to a physician about what to look for when buying a pulse oximeter, plus we've rounded up our pick of the best

If you are struggling with breathlessness or have a heart defect, an NHS-approved pulse oximeter is a fantastic way to monitor your health. Having a pulse oximeter at home can provide you and your family with peace of mind, allowing for regular checks without the need for frequent visits to healthcare facilities.

A pulse oximeter is a health gadget that allows you to monitor the oxygen levels in your blood. The NHS and doctors widely use this medical device to diagnose or monitor lung disease, as well as to monitor patients at home with various respiratory conditions.

Lindsey Ulin is a resident physician and primary care provider at Brigham and Women's hospital, and she regularly uses pulse oximeters in her work with patients. She says when it comes to choosing a pulse oximeter, more expensive isn't necessarily better.

"There are many pulse oximeters on the market and you shouldn't feel the need to purchase the more expensive models to get accurate measurements at home. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) does not approve medical devices like pulse oximeters directly, but you can look for a CE, CE UKNI or UKCA mark on the pulse oximeter to show market approval by an external body. I recommend buying from a credited source, and reading the reviews if you purchase a pulse oximeter online."

The best NHS-approved pulse oximeters at a glance:

Best overall pulse oximeter: Braun Healthcare Pulse Oximeter - Buy now on Amazon UK

Best for battery life: Salter PX-100-EU Fingertip Pulse Oximeter - Buy now on Amazon UK

Best smartphone-compatible oximeter: ViATOM Pulse Oximeter - Buy now on Amazon UK

Home health and fitness trackers are also growing in popularity. These devices offer various features for monitoring well-being and fitness. This information is crucial for assessing respiratory health, and keeping a regular eye on your oxygen levels can be an early indicator of respiratory issues. Whilst pulse oximeters are valuable tools for monitoring oxygen levels, they should not replace professional medical advice; rather, they are a great way to keep an eye on your levels.

We've pulled together a useful guide to the best NHS-approved pulse oximeters plus Lindsey Ulin talks us through how to use one, what the readings mean, and what to look for when buying.

Best NHS-approved pulse oximeters:

Best overall pulse oximeter

The Braun pulse oximeter is comfortable, clear, and convenient to use. We love the simple, single-finger clip design which enables you to take readings effortlessly and accurately. The display is brightly back-lit and it also rotates, so it allows you to see your results with ease.

Reviewers love the speed of this device and also its accuracy. Ulin recommends cross-referencing the results of your home pulse oximeter with your GP's, and this reviewer did just that, stating:
"I compared results with my GP’s device in surgery during a visit and found the results spot-on with her device. Perfect confirmation that the results provided are accurate. You cannot ask for more than that!"

For simplicity, ease of use and accuracy, the Braun pulse oximeter is our top choice overall.

Pros

  • Clinically validated accuracy
  • Simple to use
  • Bright back-lit display

Cons

  • Doesn't come with a protective pouch or case for storage
SpO2 measurement range:80-100%
SpO2 accuracy:+/- 2%
PR measurement range:25-250bpm
Accuracy:+/- 1bpm
Power:requires two AAA alkaline batteries

Best battery life

This high-quality pulse oximeter from Salter is easy to use and has a clear OLED display, but what we really like is that the batteries last for ages! Perfect if, like us, you always forget to buy some. The low-power consumption and automatic shut-off makes a surprising difference if you need to use this regularly to monitor your health. Also, batteries are included.

The pulse oximeter is compact yet clear, but the display doesn't rotate like the Braun one, so that can potentially make it more difficult to read. Again, reviewers have checked its results for accuracy and are pleased: "It has exceeded my expectations in terms of accuracy and reliability. I have tested it against the NHS equivalent within a hospital, giving me the confidence to rely on its readings."

Other reviews have praised its "intuitive" design - you simply pop it on and press the button - and "results are instant."

Pros

  • Batteries are included
  • Automatic power-off function
  • Lightweight
  • Compact design

Cons

  • Some people found it difficult to read
  • You do need to stay very still for it to take readings
SpO2 measurement range:70-100%
SpO2 accuracy:+/- 2%
PR measurement range:30-250bpm
Accuracy:+/- 2bpm
Power:requires one AAA alkaline battery

Best smartphone-compatible oximeter

If you're tech-savvy, then a pulse oximeter that links to your smart phone might be just the thing for you. Not only will this ViATOM pulse oximeter provide readings in the moment, you can also measure, manage and track SpO2 and pulse rate readings in the accompanying app with a detailed history report of your readings.

This is especially useful for taking along to GP or consultant appointments, or monitoring your respiratory rate over a longer period. The app also integrates with Apple Health, so can link with Apple Watch data as well.

Reviews praise ease of use, clarity and how easy it is to link to the app: "The app was extremely easy to set up. I have an iPhone 11, just installed the app, opened it and when prompted said it was OK for it to access Bluetooth. Then I turned the oximeter on, it instantly showed up in the app and a quick tap later and it was paired. Looking in the settings of the app I found an Apple Health option, I switched that on and then could see the results instantly appear in the health app."

Pros

  • Batteries included
  • Warnings when readings are irregular
  • Records readings on your phone

Cons

  • Smartphone required
SpO2 measurement range:70-100%
SpO2 accuracy:+/- 2%
PR measurement range:25-250bpm
Accuracy:+/- 2bpm
Power:requires two AAA alkaline batteries

Best pulse oximeter for the whole family

As well as providing quick results and measurements, this aCurio pulse oximeter is suitable for anyone over the age of four, making it perfect for the whole family. Personally, we have one pule oximeter in our family that's used by parents, children and grandchildren as needed.

It takes about 8 seconds for the reading to come through, and the display is bright red. This is easy to read for some but not others, so make sure that's suitable for you first.

Most reviewers have praised this for easy of use, like this one: "easy to read and easy to use. I feel it has given me peace of mind." But some have said it's not as accurate as medical devices. Also, it;'s worth noting it doesn't come with batteries - you'll need 2 x AAA batteries to get started.

Pros

  • Large font makes it easy for people to read
  • Suitable for the whole family
  • Small and portable

Cons

  • Batteries not included
SpO2 measurement range:70-100%
SpO2 accuracy:+/- 3%
PR measurement range:30-250bpm
Accuracy:+/- 1bpm
Power: requires two AAA alkaline batteries

Best 5-in-1 pulse oximeters

How to use an NHS-approved pulse oximeter including the best ones to buy (16)

Price:

$32.99

This pulse oximeter features 5-in-1 health monitoring to provide readings for SpO2, body temperature, heart rate, perfusion index (blood flow) and plethysmograph (changes in volume - useful for checking for blood clots).

We like that this oximeter has an anti-shake function to help with trembling hands or active children and has been tested on different ages and skin colours for accurate measurements, because there's been a lot of research showing pulse oximeters might give inaccurate readings for non-white patients.

Customers praise it for being "accurate and consistent," and noted that the oximeter comes "with a booklet detailing the research behind its algorithm and the clinical trials it has undergone. It also comes with an instructional video on how to use it."

It's worth noting that batteries aren't included, and that some reviews have said the thermometer option is a bit fiddly to use.

Pros

  • Offers five-in-one accurate readings
  • Alarm for abnormal O2 level readings
  • Booklet explaining testing process

Cons

  • Batteries not included
  • The thermometer option can be a bit fiddly to use
SpO2 measurement range:70-100%
SpO2 accuracy:+/- 2-3%
PR measurement range:25-250bpm
Accuracy:+/- 3bpm
Power:requires two AAA alkaline batteries

How to use an NHS-approved pulse oximeter including the best ones to buy (17)

Price:

$32.99

Best budget NHS-approved oximeter

Suitable for all ages, this pulse oximeter has been used by health professionals across the UK, including doctors and nurses in NHS hospitals and private surgeries. CE-certified and FDA-approved, this oximeter accommodates a wide range of finger sizes and is one of the most accurate to buy, as this review attests:

"Shortly after receiving this monitor, we had cause to compare it to the equipment used by the ambulance service. Side by side, they provided the same reading, which gave us confidence in the monitor and the results it produces."

Like most pulse oximeters it's reasonably priced, but we like that it comes with batteries included, making it slightly better value for money. You can also rotate the screen, which we like as it's so much easier to read.

Pros

  • Suitable for adults and children who weigh 20kg+
  • Batteries included
  • Used by Health professionals across the UK

Cons

  • Some reviews mention the instructions are difficult to follow when you first receive it
SpO2 measurement range: 0-100%
SpO2 accuracy:+/- 1%
PR measurement range:30-250bpm
Power:requires two AAA alkaline batteries

Best portable/ wearable pulse oximeter

We like the TRAN Pulse Oximeter because it comes with a lanyard you can attach, making it easily portable. For example, if you need to monitor your oxygen levels while walking, you can just clip it around your neck and off you go.

It doesn't come with batteries, but reviews call it "good quality, very sturdy," and state that it "doesn't feel cheap, does the job and is easy to use." Readings match with devices used by GPs.

it has a handy heart rate and Sats guide included, so you can see where your measurements lie and will know when to raise any concerns with your GP.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Portable
  • Easy to clean

Cons

  • Batteries not included
SpO2 measurement range:-
PR measurement range:-
Accuracy:-
Power:requires two AAA alkaline batteries

NHS-approved pulse oximeter FAQs

Yours spoke to Lindsey Ulin, Physician from Brigham and Women's hospital, to get the answers to all the important questions about pulse oximeters.

What is an oximeter?

If you're unsure whether or not you need to use an NHS-approved pulse oximeter, you should always contact your GP or a health professional. As an oximeter is a tool used to help with the diagnosis of COVID-19, monitoring sleep apnoea and more, it's essential that you find out what risks most apply to you and discuss any concerns that you might have.

According to the NHS website, "A pulse oximeter is a small medical device that is put on the tip of the finger, to check someone's oxygen levels. Pulse oximeters measure blood oxygen levels by transmitting light through a finger – they are more accurate than smartwatches or phones, which make less accurate readings by reflecting light off the skin."

What to look for in an oximeter

When you come to purchase an oximeter, it's a good idea to look for one that is NHS approved and comes from a reputable retailer. A clear, easy-to read screen is important - the last thing you want to be doing is squinting or trying to find your glasses to read the numbers.

Think about what you need it for - is it just to monitor blood oxygen levels, or do you want a device that also records heart rate, blood pressure and more?

How to use a pulse oximeter

Ulin says: "Pulse oximeters are easy to use. Before your first use, see if the device needs batteries which may not be included in the packaging. First, clean the device with a soft cloth or a cotton swab with rubbing alcohol. Place your index finger into the finger pad in the device with your fingernail facing up. Wait for the pulse oximeter to display the two numbers on its screen."

What finger should I put there oximeter on?

"Place the device on your index finger. If numbers do not appear after a few moments or the numbers are abnormal, try again on your middle, ring, or pinky fingers. Clean the device again after using it."

Please note: Pulse oximeters may not be accurate for people with dark skin tones, or who have nail polish on, cold skin, poor circulation, or tattoos near the sensors.

Are oximeters accurate?

Pulse oximeters used in medical settings or hospitals are high-quality and likely to give you the most accurate reading. Pulse oximeters are available for sale in your local chemist or online for use at home, and while they will record your oxygen levels, some can be inaccurate or give poor readings if used incorrectly.

It is important to invest in one that has been NHS-approved, comes from a reputable retailer or has been recognised for its quality. While it may not be necessary for everyone, this gadget could be used by individuals with underlying respiratory issues who may want to monitor or assess the severity of attacks or physically active people who experience regular drops in oxygen levels.

Ulin recommends checking the accuracy of your home device with your GP: "Consider bringing your pulse oximeter to your next doctor's appointment to compare its reading with the monitor in the office."

What are the two readings on a pulse oximeter?

"Pulse oximeters display two numbers, one is the heart rate which usually has a PR standing for pulse rate and will show how many times your heart beats per minute. The other number is blood oxygen saturation which appears next to SpO2 % and measures the amount of oxygen carried by your red blood cells."

What should your oxygen levels be?

"Oxygen saturation levels of 95 percent and above are normal for most people. However, if you have certain chronic conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or sleep apnea, your normal oxygen level may be closer to 90 percent. Check with your healthcare provider if you are not sure what your normal level should be."

What if your oxygen levels are too low?

"Seek medical attention immediately if your oxygenation level on your pulse oximeter is below 90 percent. Oxygen levels of 91 to 94 percent may be a sign of a concerning medical problem even before symptoms start and warrant evaluation by a healthcare provider such as your GP nurse."

How to use an oximeter at home:

Want to use an oximeter from the comfort of your own home? You can measure your pulse rate and oxygen levels by clipping the oximeter to your fingertip. Once it's attached to you securely, switch it on and wait a short time for the results to show.

If you're still unsure how to get this device to work, the NHS has pulled together a six-minute video to show you how to use a pulse oximeter at home. We love that this video takes you step-by-step on how you can monitor your readings if you've been asked to use one by your GP or health professional.

You can also track your healthy with a smartwatch device.

Lindsey Ulin is an internal medicine resident physician and PCP at Brigham and Women's Hospital, affiliated with Harvard Medical School

Eleanor Weaveris the Deputy Homes & Garden Product Editor for Yours, specialising in home décor, furnishings and appliances. Having worked commercially on Yours magazine andYours.co.ukfor the past six years, she's previously hosted Yours Live events and loves looking for home inspiration online.

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How to use an NHS-approved pulse oximeter including the best ones to buy (2024)
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