How should I use a fingertip oxygen monitor?

Gwynneth Derere
Gwynneth Derere
  • Updated

This article is for patients who have been asked by their GP practice to use a fingertip oxygen monitor.

To get an accurate reading from your fingertip oxygen monitor:

  • Remove any nail polish or false nails.
  • Warm your hand up if cold.
  • Make sure you have been resting for at least five minutes before using your monitor.
  • Rest your hand on your chest at heart level and hold still.
  • Switch the pulse oximeter on and place it on your finger. It works best on your middle or index fingers.
  • The reading takes time to steady. Keep the pulse oximeter in place for at least a minute, or longer if the reading keeps changing.
  • Take the highest result once the reading has not changed for five seconds.
  • The monitor will give two numbers. One is your oxygen level (SpO2, SaO2 or %) and one is your heart rate (often PR, HR or BPM).
  • Please consult the instructions for your device or clarify with a healthcare professional on how to read the results if this is unclear.

⚠️ Warning: 

  • The normal range for oxygen levels is 95% or above. However, some patients with lung conditions can have levels that are consistently lower. If your reading is lower than 95% and this is unexpected please contact your GP practice immediately or 111 if they are closed.
  • The normal range for heart rates is 60-100 beats per minute. However, some patients may have much lower heart rates (athletes for example), which would be normal for them. If your heart rate is higher or lower than expected for you please contact your GP practice immediately or 111 if they are closed.

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