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Pulse oximeters are nothing new in the health and wellness space. However, you are likely just hearing about the devices due to current worldwide health concerns. Demand for pulse oximeters significantly increased as the COVID-19 pandemic gained momentum — and they’ve been selling out everywhere.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports symptoms of COVID-19 include, but are not limited to, shortness of breath, cough and fever. Folks have discovered that pulse oximeters may be the best means of monitoring two of the body’s most basic vitals: heart rate and blood oxygen level.
Of these listed symptoms of COVID-19, difficulty in breathing and shortness of breath are among the most serious, according to results outlined in The Financial Express. These specific symptoms often correspond with depletion of oxygen levels in the blood which, according to the article, “can prove to be fatal if not addressed on time” — a detail that will be addressed later.
To stay on top of this metric and ensure that these levels are stable, folks have been scooping up pulse oximeters — so much so that the devices have been described as “a lifeline for COVID-19 patients.”
While these pocket-sized gadgets have been sold out for weeks, Amazon recently restocked one of the most popular and highly rated options from Zacurate. But, before you shell out $30 for this bad boy, read on to learn exactly how it functions, what doctors are saying about it being used by everyday folks and, ultimately, if you should even buy one.
Shop: Zacurate Pro Series 500DL Fingertip Pulse Oximeter, $26.99
What is a pulse oximeter?
According to Healthline, a pulse oximeter is “a small, clip-like device that attaches to a body part, like toes or an earlobe,” but is “most commonly put on a finger.”
The publication describes the device as “a noninvasive and painless test that measures your oxygen saturation level or the oxygen levels in your blood.” Once the device is securely fitted, it will garner the results in seconds.
The World Heath Organization (WHO) has outlined that a reading of 90 percent to 100 percent on a pulse oximeter is considered healthy and is not a cause for concern. Those who have no underlying or preexisting health conditions should receive a general reading of 95 or higher.
Those with chronic conditions are advised to speak with their doctors to learn what their appropriate reading should be and when they should seek medical attention if that reading is not achieved.
Experts and casual shoppers alike have dubbed the pulse oximeter one of the most useful and intuitive health monitoring gadgets of the moment. Deli Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal sang the device’s praises, calling it a “suraksha kavach” (protective shield) while revealing that, through the use of pulse oximeters in home isolation in Deli, deaths have minimized among coronavirus patients.
How do health professionals feel about using pulse oximeters during the coronavirus pandemic?
Dr. Alexa Mieses, a practicing family physician in Durham, N.C., explained how the device can be used during COVID-19, and what to do if any irregularities are noticed.
“Having an oximeter is reasonable while under the care of a physician,” Dr. Mieses told Fox News. “It is important to know whether or not your oxygen saturation is normal for you and what to do if it is not.”
While Dr. Mieses shared that oximeters are best used in healthcare settings, she advised that, if you do use it leisurely and are concerned about your oxygen levels, you should call your physician.
“If you are concerned that your oxygen saturation is low, call your family physician right away as low saturation levels could be an indicator of hypoxemia, which can cause the body to have difficulty delivering oxygen to all of its cells, tissues and organs,” Dr. Mieses said.
According to Healthline, hypoxemia “is when you have low levels of oxygen in your blood.” And, as previously outlined, this depletion of oxygen can prove to be fatal if not addressed quickly.
So, should you buy a pulse oximeter?
Though doctors are unsure about how effective the device is in the hands of the public, users have said it can help give perspective and piece-of-mind during the current health crisis.
Talk show host and “Real Housewives” executive producer Andy Cohen also opened up about using a pulse oximeter to monitor his oxygen levels after testing positive for COVID-19 in March 2020.
Talking to his listeners on “Andy Cohen Live” on March 30, 2020, Cohen, who was already back at work two weeks after his diagnosis, said he used the device in addition to taking Tylenol, vitamin C and loading up on liquids. He also shared that his doctor advised him of the best methods to understand the readings to avoid any paranoia or misuse.
“You could scare yourself and think, ‘Oh, my God, my lungs don’t feel right,’ but you could use this pulse oximeter and see, ‘OK, well actually, you’re fine, you’re within the range,'” he said.
“The Zacurate is consistent for both oxygen and pulse readings,” the shopper wrote. “Place it on a flat surface, stick your index finger in, bottom side down, press button to turn on unit and wait 5-6 seconds for the readout.”
The same shopper, who gave the product a five-star rating, also compared it to another top-rated pulse oximeter on the market from MiBest. After testing them both out, the reviewer concluded that Zacurate was the superior choice.
“If you can find Zacurate available, and it costs less than MiBest, it’s the clear first choice,” the shopper shared. “It’s a trusted and very easy-to-use oximeter at a great price for home users like us and medical professionals, too.”
While outlining what ultimately led to the Zacurate option coming out on top, the shopper noted, “its readout is vertical, just as your finger will be. Thus, it’s easier to read than the horizontally oriented MiBest.”
The only con shoppers seem to express for the device is that it does not beep to indicate that it has taken its initial reading. However, one shopper who shared this sentiment still said it’s “a must-have device of elderly and young alike.”
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