Since the use of pulse oximeters was first introduced into hospital operating rooms as a means for instant and ongoing monitoring of a patient's blood oxygen saturation level, their presence has steadily crept into other areas of medical use such as in recovery rooms, emergency rooms, neo-natal wards, emergency transport vehicles and more. As the availability of quality pulse oximeters has increased and costs have come down, their use has now become routine in homes where individuals require a quick, easy way to monitor pulse rates and/or SpO2 percentages. These include those suffering from COPD, mesothelioma, asthma or other respiratory conditions, especially those accompanied by shortness of breath.
Non-Medical Pulse Oximetry Uses
Pulse oximeters have become a quick, convenient, portable means for checking the amount of oxygen being carried in the hemoglobin found in blood. This amount is expressed as a percentage, with a healthy individual typically having a blood saturation level of between 95-99%, although anything above 92% is normally safe. The way a pulse oximeter works is by clipping onto a finger or toe and then sending two light beams through the skin and into the small blood capillaries.
These light beams, one visible red and one infrared, are absorbed in different amounts by oxygenated and deoxygenated blood. By comparing the two, the pulse oximeter is able to determine the percentage of blood (hemoglobin) fully oxygenated. In addition, a pulse oximeter is able to monitor and display the wearer's pulse rate or number of heartbeats/minute. Because of these two capabilities, pulse oximetry has recently become popular for use in other activities other than strictly medical purposes.
- Pulse oximeters are starting to show up in gyms and fitness centers, where they're being used to monitor SpO2 during strenuous workouts. They're also an easy way to monitor pulse rates, which are a factor during aerobic exercises where it's important to reach a target pulse rate for a predetermined period of time.
- Those who are involved in high altitude fitness, such as mountain climbers, bikers or athletes working out in locations where the air is thin may want to keep track of their SpO2 to make sure they're getting enough oxygen into their systems.
- Tourists visiting countries like Peru, Ecuador or others located in high mountain ranges will often become lightheaded and may even need to purchase auxiliary oxygen supplies in certain cases. Having a pulse oximeter to monitor blood oxygen levels at high altitudes will be helpful here.
- Piloting an aircraft at above 10,000 feet in a non-pressurized cabin carries the risk of becoming lightheaded and even blacking out. Using a portable pulse oximeter to monitor SpO2 is not only helpful in these situations but could be a life-saving precaution.
Check out Part 1 of this post, and see what the “Top 5 Medical Pulse Oximeter Uses” are here.