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Pulse oximeter, Oxygen concentrator buying guide: How they work and how to pick the best one for you

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A pulse oximeter is a remote device that painlessly monitors the level of oxygen saturation in a person’s body within a few seconds. (Images: Amazon)

Pulse Oximeters: As the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic is raging on in India, there is a need for people to continuously monitor their oxygen levels to ensure that, if needed, they can get medical help urgently. However, during the first wave that the country saw in 2020, there was an influx of various pulse oximeters, and the lack of complete knowledge and the variety of choices have now left people confused regarding which oximeters to buy. The same is also the case with oxygen concentrators, with a lot of people looking to buy them, so that they can ensure sufficient oxygen at home.

Here is everything you need to know about pulse oximeters and oxygen concentrators: how they work, the differences and how to pick the best one for you.

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Pulse oximeter explained

A pulse oximeter is a remote device that painlessly monitors the level of oxygen saturation in a person’s body within a few seconds. As per advisories oxygen saturation above 95% is considered healthy and sufficient by medical experts. The importance of this device increased after the COVID-19 pandemic struck, since it is a respiratory disease and affects the level of the oxygen in an infected person. Moreover, since isolating an infected person at home is necessary in this condition, there grew a need for devices that would test oxygen levels easily and at home, and this void was filled by pulse oximeters.

Types of pulse oximeters and prices

There are three different types of pulse oximeters, including finger pulse oximeters, hand-held oximeters and fetal pulse oximeters. It is important to decide the type of pulse oximeter one wants before deciding which one to buy. Usually, people prefer using finger pulse oximeters at home, because they are easier to use and comparatively cheaper, while the other two types are used in hospitals and clinics (under different circumstances) more often.

The finger pulse oximeter is typically a clip-like remote device, operated by a battery, and it is meant to be clipped onto the finger. The device then gives the reading about the oxygen saturation or SPO2 levels, along with the pulse rate.

A finger pulse oximeter typically falls between a price range of Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000.

Things to look for in a pulse oximeter

While checking for a pulse oximeter, there are a few features that a person can look for, including clear and bright display, durable material as well as accurate reading. To check whether a pulse oximeter has an accurate reading, the best method is to check a few oximeters and compare their readings. Moreover, one sure-fire way of knowing whether a pulse oximeter is faulty is if its SPO2 reading goes beyond 100, which is a fault reported in some oximeters. Since the SPO2 reading is in percentage, it is not supposed to cross 100.

Apart from that, if you are looking to purchase pulse oximeters online, reading customer reviews can also help understanding the product better. Alternatively, if a person chooses to purchase a pulse oximeter from a local chemist shop, they can ask the chemist about the reviews as well.

There are also certain certificates that all products get before they come to the market as a mark of quality. Users can check for FDA, RoHS, or CE certifications.

Some pulse oximeter brands to look for

Dr Trust has been offering some good US FDA approved finger pulse oximeters in India, offering an accuracy of up to 3%. Meanwhile, ChoiceMMed also has finger pulse oximeters in India, and these have the US FDA and CE certifications. Apart from this, US FDA-approved Noymi Yobekan finger pulse oximeter is also available in India and it is known to offer mostly accurate SPO2 readings. Apart from this, Vandelay, BPL, Dr Morepen, Microtek, Elko and Meditive are also offering good quality pulse oximeters in the country.

Oxygen Concentrators

Recently, there has also been a surge in people looking for oxygen concentrators, especially for COVID-19 patients who require oxygen therapy but are not able to get to a hospital. But what are oxygen concentrators? These devices filter the air in a room, only filtering the oxygen through the air, while letting the nitrogen get back out. This provides patients with air that has 90% to 95% oxygen, as against the actual ambient air which contains only about 21% oxygen, while 78% air is made of nitrogen and the remaining 1% is other gases.

Buying or renting oxygen concentrators depends on the advice of the physician, as they tell the patients the amount of oxygen required per minute, and thus, the model is selected. Oxygen concentrators have the capability of providing 0.1 litres of oxygen per minute to even 10 LPM of oxygen.

However, it is important to understand that oxygen concentrators are not the same as oxygen cylinders and the former require continuous electricity supply, ranging between 100W to 600W based on the model.

Oxygen concentrators are available in 3 LPM, 5 LPM, 8 LPM, and 10 LPM units, and a 10 LPM concentrator can be used to support two patients having low oxygen. While a 5 LPM unit costs something between Rs 40,000 to Rs 60,000, a 10 LPM unit costs somewhere around Rs 1.6 lakh.

Purchasing oxygen concentrators

Users can buy oxygen concentrators online, including from e-commerce giants Flipkart and Amazon. However, the availability of oxygen concentrators anywhere – online or offline – could be an issue due to the sudden surge in demand. Still, there are a few websites like 1mg, Nightingales India, Healthklin, and Healthgenie, that are selling oxygen concentrators. But, buyers must be careful, because some other websites are also selling equipment like nebulisers and humidifiers instead of concentrators and are scamming people.

It is best to check with a medical professional before purchasing the product. Moreover, users can also ensure that they are buying products of trustworthy brands, like Equinox, Oxlife, Inogen, Aspen, OCM, and Yuwell.

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