The best NHS approved pulse oximeters to monitor your health

Keep your health in check with speedy pulse oximeter readings at home.

Pulse oximeter

by Eleanor Weaver |

Using a pulse oximeter is a great at-home piece of kit to have to monitor the oxygen levels in your blood to check that you’re OK. It is widely used by the NHS and doctors to diagnose or monitor lung disease but has been more recently used as a way of monitoring patients at home who are suffering from Coronavirus.

If you're experiencing COVID symptoms, it may be worth picking up some lateral flow tests for peace of mind.

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If you often find that you struggle with breathlessness or have asthma or a heart defect, we think having an NHS approved pulse oximeter at home will be of great benefit if you start feeling unwell at home or need to monitor your health.

We've found the best available to buy today to keep you reassured about your wellbeing.

What is a pulse oximeter?

A pulse oximeter is a small gadget that you clip onto the tip of your middle or index finger that you simply switch on for it to shine light through your finger to work out the oxygen levels.

This beam measures the light absorption in the oxygenated blood - it is quick, non-invasive and painless and you just need to wait for the numbers shown to settle to give you your readings.

A pulse oximeter is light, portable and comes with an LED screen which will clearly display your measurements in a matter of seconds.

How to read a pulse oximeter?

A pulse oximeter tests how fast your heart is beating (shown as PR for pulse rate or bpm) and how well you are breathing by checking how much oxygen is being carried by the haemoglobin in your blood (shown as SpO2).

Pulse oximeter
©Getty Images

For someone who is healthy, the normal blood oxygen saturation level will be around 95 per cent or above.

It is great for indicating to your doctor if you’re getting better or more unwell and means you can get the treatment you need at the right time.

Using a pulse oximeter at home

Pulse oximeters used in medical settings or hospitals are high-quality and likely to give you the most accurate reading. Pulse oximeters are available for sale in your local chemist or online for use at home and while they will record your oxygen levels, some can be inaccurate or give poor readings if used incorrectly.

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It is important to invest in one that has been NHS approved, comes from a reputable retailer or has been recognised for its quality. While it may not be necessary to everyone, this gadget could be used by individuals with underlying respiratory issues who may want to monitor or assess the severity of attacks, or physically active people who experience regular drops in oxygen levels.

Things that can affect the accuracy of your test include:

• If you are wearing nail varnish or artificial nails

• Your hands are cold (make sure they’re warmed first)

• You’re not sitting still – activity can raise your heart rate and decrease your oxygen levels shown, or move the oximeter out of place

• Your skin is thicker than normal

• If you’re a smoker, the oxygen level shown may be higher than your actual oxygen

• Skin pigment can also impact the accuracy of pulse oximetry. Studies have shown that oximeters can overestimate oxygen saturation, so you should check your oximetry readings with your provider or GP if you’re concerned

Best NHS approved pulse oximeters

Suitable for all ages, this pulse oximeter has been used by health professionals across the UK including doctors and nurses in NHS hospitals and private surgeries. CE certified and FDA approved, this oximeter accommodates a wide range of finger sizes, has a wide measurement range and is one of the most accurate to buy. It comes with a detachable lanyard too, making it easy to use on the go.

SpO2 measurement range: 0-100%

SpO2 accuracy: +/- 1%

PR measurement range: 30-250bpm

Power: requires 2 AAA alkaline batteries

User review: “Shortly after receiving this monitor, we had cause to compare it to the equipment used by the ambulance service. Side by side, they provided the same reading which gave us confidence in the monitor and the results it produces. It is a neat, sturdy piece of kit that quickly provides a readout. In the current climate, this should be considered an essential purchase in order to quickly pick up on complications such as silent hypoxia which can otherwise go unnoticed, with few symptoms until the later, more severe stages. I've gone on to purchase further units for family and friends.”

CE certified, clinically verified and in compliance with EU standards, this pulse oximeter features 5-in-1 health monitoring to provide readings for SpO2, body temperature, heart rate, perfusion index and plethysmograph. We like that this oximeter has an anti-shake function to help with trembling hands or active children and has been tested on different ages and skin colours for accurate measurements.

SpO2 measurement range: 70-100%

SpO2 accuracy: +/- 2-3%

PR measurement range: 25-250bpm

Accuracy: +/- 3bpm

Power: requires 2 AAA alkaline batteries

User review: “Very happy with this Oximeter. Accurate and consistent. Had bought one previously from a different company which was very unreliable and constantly fluctuating (though well-reviewed on here), so did my research this time. This is made by a trans-national company that provides medical equipment to hospitals and comes with a booklet detailing the research behind its algorithm and the clinical trials it has undergone. I haven't sat down to read it, but it's reassuring to know that it has been fully tested. Also comes with an instructional video for how to use it. Gives an accurate reading within around 10 seconds. The thermometer is accurate too- though a little bit fiddly.”

This is the most expensive pulse oximeter on this list but for good reason! This small, lightweight and portable device and the largest measurement range available for both SpO2 and pulse rate. It's been used in a wide range of environments including hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, skilled nursing facilities, emergency medical services, and home healthcare services. Latex-free, it can expect to operate for approximately 10,000 spot checks.

SpO2 measurement range: 0-100%

SpO2 accuracy: +/- 2%

PR measurement range: 18-321bpm

Accuracy: +/- 3bpm

Power: requires 2 AAA alkaline batteries

The TRAN pulse oximeter is a great option for respiratory patients, the elderly, athletes or those who want to measure their pulse and blood oxygen saturation accurately. Equipped with a lanyard, it's light to carry and easy to add to a first aid kit if needed. With silicone hypoallergenic film to prevent allergies, this oximeter also includes an Oxygen Guide from NHS doctors.

SpO2 measurement range: -

PR measurement range: -

Accuracy: -

Power: requires 2 AAA alkaline batteries

User review: “I was diagnosed with Covid-19 on 05/07 having caught this from a work colleague and was advised to buy an Oximeter. I had no idea what this was and didn't have a clue which one to buy since there are so many on Amazon and in the shops and each brand has good and bad reviews plus the is quite a difference in price.

"Anyway I somehow decided to buy this one and I am so pleased with this product, it is good quality, very sturdy, doesn't feel cheap, does the job and is easy to use. The reading is as accurate as it can be. However, it does not come with batteries but I would highly recommend this product."

U-Kiss has a number of pulse oximeters available on Amazon and this one is recommended to sports and health enthusiasts such as climbers, skiers or cyclists looking to monitor their pulse and SpO2 before and after exercise. Small in size and with a detachable lanyard, it'll be easy to carry on your adventures to take quick measurements when you need them.

SpO2 measurement range: 0-100%

SpO2 accuracy: +/- 2%

PR measurement range: 25-250bpm

Accuracy: +/- 1bpm

Power: requires 2 AAA alkaline batteries (included)

User review: “My partner had Covid. This blood oxygen meter was a godsend to enable me to monitor his blood oxygen levels. I have 2 meters now, long story. There is a slight discrepancy between the two meters but the point being that it gives you a ballpark for your blood oxygen levels if you have Covid. It's good for general health anyway and it will give you a baseline blood oxygen level so you know where you are at in case you were unfortunate enough to catch Covid.”

As well as providing quick results and measurements fit for athletes, seniors, adventurers or for day-to-day wellbeing checks, the aCurio pulse oximeter is suitable for children over four-years-old too - perfect for keeping the whole family in check.

SpO2 measurement range: 70-100%

SpO2 accuracy: +/- 3%

PR measurement range: 30-250bpm

Accuracy: +/- 1bpm

Power: requires 2 AAA alkaline batteries

User review: “Love this oximeter. Small enough to keep in the handbag. Purchased really as I was concerned about dropping oxygen levels being one of the contributing factors of COVID admissions and not being aware of this happening without checking levels regularly. I wanted to check the whole family daily. It is easy to read and easy to use. I feel it has given me peace of mind."

Best pulse oximeters to buy online

From the reputable Salter brand, this high-quality pulse oximeter is easy to use and has a clear OLED display which'll display SpO2, PR and perfusion index, all at the push of a button. Ideal for those suffering from bronchitis, asthma or pneumonia, it's compact and has low power consumption for prolonged usage.

SpO2 measurement range: 70-100%

SpO2 accuracy: +/- 2%

PR measurement range: 30-250bpm

Accuracy: +/- 2bpm

Power: requires 2 AAA alkaline batteries

User review: “Not all oximeters are created equal. You will find several different designs, created by many different brands (most of which nobody's ever heard of). Ultimately when it comes to health I would rather trust a known brand than a no-name company, even if it means paying a little more. What makes this oximeter attractive is that it was made by Salter, a well-known brand (although I know them from digital kitchen scales!) This device appears to use the same hardware, display and algorithm as other quality oximeters such as the German brand Medisana.

"The display is very clear and provides a live graph of your pulse, as well as oxygen level. Easy to use and trusted.”

SpO2 measurement range: 80-100%

SpO2 accuracy: +/- 2%

PR measurement range: 25-250bpm

Accuracy: +/- 1bpm

Power: requires 2 AAA alkaline batteries

User review: “This is very simple to use and provides near-instant readings for blood-oxygen levels and pulse rate. I compared results with my GP’s device in surgery during a visit and found the results spot-on with her device. Perfect confirmation that the results provided are accurate! You cannot ask for more than that!"

While all the pulse oximeters on this list provide readings in the moment, this device lets you measure, manage and track SpO2 and pulse rate readings in the accompanying app with a detailed history report of your readings.

SpO2 measurement range: 70-100%

SpO2 accuracy: +/- 2%

PR measurement range: 25-250bpm

Accuracy: +/- 2bpm

Power: requires 2 AAA alkaline batteries (included)

User review: “I'm currently on chemotherapy and the drugs can affect my heart rate. I got this oximeter primarily just to check my 'vitals' but the app is really good and I can perform my Wim Hof breathing (breath retention) exercises and check my O2 levels then save the data."

Available to buy online or in your local Boots store, this smart device comes with a handy carry case (unlike others on this list) and has built-in alerts and indicators for low battery and reading results. Portable, lightweight and accurate, this is a great pick if you'd like to consult a healthcare professional in-store or online at the time of purchase with any queries or advice. Alternatively, you can buy online via Amazon here.

SpO2 measurement range: 35-100%

SpO2 accuracy: 70%-100%

PR measurement range: 25-250bpm

Accuracy: +2bpm

Power: requires 2 AAA alkaline batteries

How to use a pulse oximeter?

To use a pulse oximeter to measure your pulse rate and oxygen levels, you simply need to clip the device to your fingertip, switch it on and wait a short time for the results to show. Make sure to take the right precautions so the results are as accurate as possible.

This handy video from the NHS shows you how to use a pulse oximeter at home under their expert guidance, and how you might monitor your readings if you've been asked to use one by your GP or health professional.

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When to seek medical attention

Before testing at home, it is advised to speak to your GP first as they will be aware of your condition and be able to advise on the best process of monitoring.

If you’re measuring at home, it is advised to seek medical attention if:

• Breathing gets suddenly worse

• You can’t finish a short sentence because of breathlessness

• The blood oxygen number of the pulse oximeter stays at 92 per cent or less

• You have additional symptoms linked to Coronavirus

If you’re feeling otherwise fine and your reading is outside the normal range, this isn’t always a sign of a health problem. While oxygen levels should remain at 90 per cent or higher, your heart rate may be affected by your activity. Make sure you’re warm and relaxed and try again, or speak to your GP with any concerns.

Eleanor Weaver is a Commercial Content Writer for titles such as Yours, What’s The Best and Mother&Baby.

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