Do You Really Need A Pulse Oximeter During Coronavirus Crisis?

According to studies, a lot of patients suffering from COVID-19 have been shown to have low levels of oxygen in their blood, leading many to start buying pulse oximeters, which is a medical device that function by measuring the saturation of oxygen in our red blood cells. But do you need one for yourself?

As a result, sales of pulse oximeters have spiked up sometime in January and in February. From there, sales continue to grow each week, with a new research last Friday that revealed retail stores like CVS and Walgreens have already run out of stocks. Google searches for the medical device have also spiked up in April.

What You Need To Know About Pulse Oximeters

Usually used in home settings, pulse oximeters generally work by shining a light through the skin, from which it determines how much oxygen is being carried into your blood. It typically clips to the finger and can be found in most stores that sell medical devices, such as pharmacies and medical supply stores, even Amazon.

“Widespread pulse oximetry screening for Covid pneumonia — whether people check themselves on home devices or go to clinics or doctors’ offices — could provide an early warning system for the kinds of breathing problems associated with Covid pneumonia,” Richard Levitan, emergency room physician, said.

With that being said, experts believe that you probably don’t need one because it wouldn’t be particularly helpful in detecting the virus.

“If the question is, ‘Would it be a good early indicator if somebody has Covid-19 infection?’, I would say probably not,” Dr. J. Randall Curtis, a professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the University of Washington, said.

This is because low oxygen levels in our blood are typically a late sign of COVID-19 and is not an early symptom at all. Furthermore, the top symptoms of coronavirus (fever, dry cough and body aches) that would show are typically enough for a person to get themselves checked as soon as possible.

Besides, some believe that they can also provide inaccurate readings. So no, you most likely don’t need one.

Wrist pulse oximeter Picture of a wrist mounted pulse oxymeter. The device shows the oxygenation of the blood, the pulse rate and the pulse waveform along with several indicators of device specific information. UusiAjaja/Wikimedia Commons