If you are new to monitoring blood oxygen, or have a new diagnosis, it is important to monitor your oxygen levels regularly. Blood oxygen is typically quite stable, but may vary depending on many factors, and slightly from one meter to the next. If you’ve noticed a difference in your readings and want to learn more, take these pointers!
Get a Baseline: What’s Normal for You?
If you are newly monitoring, or have a new diagnosis, you must first establish a baseline.
- To get a baseline, measure your blood oxygen three times per day for 3 days.
- The average of these 9 readings approximates your ‘baseline’.
- When first prescribed oxygen
- Regularly with oxygen therapy
- During or just after exercising
- During sleep: when you have trouble sleeping or sleep apnea
- When traveling to a higher altitude location
Factors that could cause a higher-than-normal reading:
Factors that could cause a lower-than-normal reading:
- Nail polish & artificial nails
- Very dark skin
- Cold hands
- Poor circulation
- Sickle cell disease
Other factors that may cause an inaccurate or unmeasurable reading:
- Bright light directly to the probe, like sunlight
- Very low oxygen saturation levels (below 80%)
- Movement during the measurement
Review Reliability: Blood oximeters do not require calibration because the design and measurement technique either incorporates a continuous calibration of the device, or does not require it by measurement technique. The SpO2 (blood oxygen) reading should always be considered an estimate of oxygen saturation. For example, if an FDA-cleared pulse oximeter reads 90%, then the true oxygen saturation in the blood is generally between 86-94%.