The 9 Best Pulse Oximeters for At-Home Use (2024)

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  • Best pulse oximeter for fast results: Oxiline Pulse 7 Pro
  • Best basic or simple pulse oximeter: SantaMedical Generation 2 Fingertip
  • Best ear clip pulse oximeter: Nonin 8000Q2 Reusable Ear Clip Sensor
  • Best fingertip pulse oximeter: Innovo Premium iP900AP Fingertip
  • Best pulse oximeter with alarm: Innovo Deluxe iP900AP Fingertip
  • Best forehead sensor for pulse oximeters: Covidien Nellcor SpO2 Forehead Sensor with OxiMax
  • Best pulse oximeter for continuous monitoring: Philips WristOx2 Wrist-Worn Pulse Oximeter
  • Best pulse oximeter during exercise: iHealth Air Wireless Fingertip Pulse Oximeter

Pulse oximeters designed for home use have been available for some time. But in recent years, their popularity has grown as people increasingly prioritize wellness and actively seek convenient ways to monitor their health.

A pulse oximeter helps check your blood oxygen level. You might find this device helpful if you have certain health conditions, such as asthma, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart failure, or anemia. These conditions can affect your blood oxygen levels.

Below, you’ll find a comprehensive guide to pulse oximeters — including what a normal read looks like and tips to choose the best product for your needs.

A note on FDA approval

The FDA is responsible for regulating and approving medical devices, including pulse oximeters, to ensure their safety and effectiveness.

The approval process for medical devices involves several steps. It may include premarket notification, which is 510(k) clearance, or premarket approval (PMA), depending on the device’s classification. The classification of a medical device is based on its level of risk to the person and its intended use.

Some pulse oximeters, particularly those with novel technologies or intended for high risk uses, may require a PMA. This process is more rigorous and involves the submission of extensive scientific evidence, including clinical data, to demonstrate the device’s safety and effectiveness. The FDA reviews this evidence before granting approval.

However, not all pulse oximeters have FDA approval or clearance if they’re marketed for general wellness purposes rather than for a medical diagnosis or treatment.

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A pulse oximeter (or a “pulse ox” for short) is a device used to measure the body’s heart rate and oxygen levels. You’ll usually find them in hospital or clinical settings, but you can also purchase at-home or consumer electronic versions online.

These devices measure your oxygenation, according to Julie Chen, MD, an internal medicine specialist in California. To put it simply, they can tell you if your blood is saturated enough with oxygen.

We looked for products with the best features and feedback to compile our list of the best pulse oximeters for at-home use. Here are the criteria we considered:

  • Popularity: We included products purchased by hundreds or thousands of customers.
  • Reviews: All products have high average customer ratings.
  • Company reputation and transparency: We only included products from trusted brands — more specifically, brands with no recent recalls or lawsuits.

Our team has also vetted each product for medical and business standards.

Below, find nine expert-approved pulse oximeters to keep on your radar, whether you’re shopping for yourself or for your loved ones.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $30
  • $$ = $30–$70
  • $$$ = over $70

Best pulse oximeter for fast results

Oxiline Pulse 7 Pro

  • Price: $$
  • Type of oximeter: finger
  • What it measures: oxygen saturation (SpO2), perfusion index (PI), heartbeats per minute (BPM)
  • Other features: includes batteries, has LED screen

The Oxiline Pulse 7 Pro is designed to accurately determine your blood oxygen level in just 7 seconds. It displays the results with large, easy-to-read digits on its high contrast LED display. To use it, you simply open the hinges of the small, oval-shaped device and place your finger inside.

The Pulse 7 Pro also comes with free shipping, a lifetime warranty, and a 30-day money-back guarantee.

This pulse oximeter is cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and features great nanosensors with high-level detection. Both units from the brand — Pulse 7 Pro and Pulse 9 Pro — are made to provide results quickly, which can be helpful when you’re short on time.

Pros

  • FDA cleared
  • provides quick results
  • high-level detection

Cons

  • some reviewers say the screen scratches easily

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Best basic or simple pulse oximeter

SantaMedical Generation 2 Fingertip

  • Price: $
  • Type of oximeter: finger
  • What it measures: SpO2, oxygen levels, BPM
  • Other features: comes with hanging neck/wrist strap, includes batteries, has 1-year warranty

The Generation 2 Fingertip is an entry-level device with an accessible price point. Fit the device onto your finger and measure your blood oxygen level, pulse rate, and changes in blood flow. Your blood oxygen and pulse are displayed as numerical values, and your blood flow will show up as a waveform.

This AAA-battery-operated device is a basic one. It provides the necessary information without any bells and whistles, like smartphone connectivity. It’s not FDA-approved.

The SantaMedical Generation 2 pulse oximeter is a budget-friendly option and has a unique auto shut-off feature after 10 seconds. The oximeter has only one button for ease of use.

Pros

  • reviewers note it’s easy to operate
  • comes with protective carrying case
  • display is large and bright

Cons

  • some users say readings can vary greatly
  • not FDA-approved

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Best ear clip pulse oximeter

Nonin 8000Q2 Reusable Ear Clip Sensor

  • Price: $$$
  • Type of oximeter: ear clip
  • What it measures: SpO2
  • Other features: 90-day warranty

The Nonin 8000Q2 is our top pick for an ear clip pulse oximeter. It’s straightforward to operate and makes a great option if you want a sensor that doesn’t require access to your hands.

The device clips directly to your earlobe instead of a finger. You must rub your ear lobe vigorously for at least 5 seconds before attaching the clip and ensure it’s correctly positioned to cover the light sensors. If you don’t position it properly, you may get an inaccurate reading.

The brand says the device is designed to deliver accurate measurements when used as directed, even if you have a darker skin tone. However, it’s not FDA-approved.

Unlike other ear pulse oximeters, this does require a tabletop set to hook up to it, which can be useful to those who want a product with easy setup.

“However, I generally don’t recommend ear pulse oximeters, since they are usually more expensive and less easy to use,” Chen says.

Note that Nonin has a slightly different way of purchasing an ear oximeter through their website. They require you to submit a product inquiry on their website before placing an order. You can purchase the Nonin ear oximeter sensor through other retailers like Concord Health Supply.

Pros

  • works for both spot-checking and long-term monitoring
  • offers an alternative location to get reading

Cons

  • higher price point
  • need a tabletop oximeter for proper use
  • less straightforward order process

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Best fingertip pulse oximeter

Innovo Premium iP900AP Fingertip

  • Price: $$
  • Type of oximeter: finger
  • What it measures: blood oxygen monitor with PI
  • Other features: adjustable display, includes battery and lanyard, latex-free

Innovo’s iP900AP pulse oximeter is available in two models, both of which made our list. This model is a worthy fingertip option — and according to Innovo, it consistently beats other pulse oximeters in terms of accuracy and reliability during clinical tests. But bear in mind that these findings don’t translate into FDA approval.

Reviewers are impressed at the accuracy of this oximeter and compare the device’s readings to those on professional machines. Also, there’s no need to second guess if the readings are reliable or if you’re taking them correctly — the device tells you.

Both Innovo models on our list share the same features and construction for fingertip use and have visual and numeric readouts on an OLED display. If you don’t need an alarm feature, the Premium iP900AP may work well for you.

Board-certified internist Christine Bishara, MD, says she recommends her patients have a portable pulse ox handy as part of other essentials, like a thermometer. However, patients should always consult with their doctors on their specific medical problems and use of a portable home-use pulse oximeter before purchasing, she notes.

Pros

  • easy to transport
  • ready to use right out of the box
  • reviews report accurate readings

Cons

  • battery setup can be confusing
  • reviewers say it’s not very durable

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Best pulse oximeter with alarm

Innovo Deluxe iP900AP Fingertip

  • Price: $$
  • Type of oximeter: finger
  • What it measures: SpO2 and pulse rate
  • Other features: optional alarm

This is the second Innovo model to have made our list. The main difference between the two Innovo iP900AP models is that this one, the Deluxe, has an alarm.

This alarm will sound if your oxygen levels or pulse rate fall outside the set limits. You can also set the alarm to sound with each pulse beat. What’s more, you can set parameters and change the settings for the alarms according to your preferences. The alarm can also be muted.

This pulse oximeter has six different layout options, and it’s also ready to use out of the box, as it only requires AAA batteries to power it.

Like the premium model, the Innovo Deluxe comes with a lanyard and 2 AAA batteries. It does not have FDA approval.

Pros

  • includes optional alarm
  • six different layout options
  • high quality product

Cons

  • some customers report customer service issues with the company

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Best forehead sensor for pulse oximeters

Covidien Nellcor SpO₂ Forehead Sensor with OxiMax

  • Price: varies
  • Type of oximeter: forehead sensor
  • What it measures: SpO2 and pulse rate
  • Other features: has FDA approval

If you prefer an option that doesn’t rely on hand or arm access, the Nellcor forehead sensor offers a solid choice. The device can take readings from your forehead using an adhesive pad. However, oximeters like these are more expensive, and require a tabletop system in order to get a full reading.

You’ll need to purchase an oximeter system separately from Covidien to use the sensor, which makes it a considerable investment. That said, this is a medical-grade system with FDA approval. The Nellcor has a rather elusive ordering process in which it asks you to contact customer support to purchase the product. It’s available on other retailers, like Medical Device Depot, but they sell it in bulk, with the device going for $771 for 24 devices.

Pros

  • detects low oxygen up to 90 seconds earlier
  • plug-and-play use
  • useful for both kids and adults

Cons

  • higher price point
  • requires a tabletop system
  • no clear way to purchase product through their website

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Best pulse oximeter for continuous monitoring

Philips WristOx2 Wrist-Worn Pulse Oximeter

  • Price: varies
  • Type of oximeter: wrist
  • What it measures: SpO2, pulse rate, and pulse strength
  • Other features: Bluetooth connectivity available

This FDA-approved oximeter is one of the best on the market for continuous oxygen monitoring. Philips says the WristOx2 model provides long-lasting battery life and enhanced memory, which allows more data to be collected.

It’s unlikely that most average consumers would need equipment like this, and this pulse oximeter is mainly designed for use in a professional healthcare environment. On their website, there is only an option to submit a sales inquiry, and the price is not listed on their page.

“Continuous monitoring should really be reserved for a hospital setting only,” Bishara explains. “This is because pulse ox readings should always correlate with clinical findings that are closely monitored in this type of setting. However, Philips offers continuous monitors for hospitals, as well as portables for patient use.”

Pros

  • Bluetooth-enabled
  • easy-to-read display

Cons

  • Philips has had multiple serious recalls of breathing machines

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Best pulse oximeter during exercise

iHealth Air Wireless Fingertip Pulse Oximeter

  • Price: $$$
  • Type of oximeter: finger
  • What it measures: SpO2, PI, and pulse rate
  • Other features: rechargeable batteries

If you’re considering monitoring your oxygen while exercising, the iHealth Air Wireless oximeter is a great option to consider, especially for the price.

You can use the iHealth oximeter to keep track of your oxygen levels and heart rate during physical activity. You can even link to your smartphone to display your oxygen saturation levels, pulse rate, and pulse strength. This makes it easy to see how exercise affects your oxygen level and pulse rate before and after your workout.

You can store your results in the free iHealth MyVitals app to see trends over time, which can help you reach your fitness goals. It’s ideal for tech-forward people interested in improving their exercise performance. But if you’re searching for FDA-approved options, this isn’t one.

The oximeter comes with a lanyard and a micro-USB for charging the built-in lithium battery.

Pros

  • Bluetooth technology
  • free smartphone app
  • 12-month warranty

Cons

  • short battery life

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Pulse oximeterPriceLocation of readingEase of use
Oxiline Pulse 7 Pro$$fingertipvery easy
SantaMedical Generation 2 Fingertip$fingertipvery easy
Nonin 8000Q2 Reusable Ear Clip Sensorvariesearlobedifficult
Innovo Premium iP900AP Fingertip$$fingertipsomewhat easy
Innovo Deluxe iP900AP Fingertip$fingertipeasy
Covidien Nellcor SpO2 Forehead Sensor with OxiMax$$$foreheadsomewhat difficult
Philips WristOx2 Wrist-Worn Pulse Oximetervarieswristvaries
iHealth Air Wireless Fingertip Pulse Oximeter$$fingertipeasy

Pulse oximeters work by “shining a light through the finger or earlobe, and then measuring the reflection of the light beam to see how much light passes through, or gets reflected away from the sensor on the other side,” says Chaim Backman, PT, EMT, a Brooklyn, New York-based physical therapist.

“Then, using a mathematical equation, oximeters are able to calculate how much oxygen is in the blood,” he adds.

According to Backman, a normal read from a pulse oximeter falls within the range of 98%–99%. He adds that anything below 90% indicates something serious that needs to be addressed urgently.

Pulse oximeter probes or sensors can be attached to your fingers, nose, ear, toes, and forehead, explains board-certified internist Jaydeep Tripathy, MBA-MPH, PhD.

That said, he notes the most accurate readings usually occur when the pulse ox is clamped to the finger, specifically the middle finger, as opposed to other body parts.

In a clinical setting, pulse ox probes tend to differ, according to board-certified internal medicine specialist Spencer Kroll, MD, PhD.

“Hospital-based pulse oximeters are linked to machines that measure blood pressure and temperature,” Kroll says. He goes on to explain that they can also link to a measurement of your heart rhythm that’s taken at the same time.

According to Kroll, home-based pulse oximeters only measure your pulse oxygenation and heart rate, while hospital systems can provide a printout of your readings.

That said, some pulse oximeter accessories can now be linked to smartphones, so you can save your data and print it out later, he says.

John Hill, RRT, of pulmonary services at Deborah Heart and Lung Center in New Jersey, says those living with chronic heart and respiratory conditions benefit most from using a pulse oximeter.

He says people with lung or heart conditions, including those with COPD, asthma, and allergies, may find it helpful to monitor their oxygen levels.

Vicken Zeitjian, MD, a cardiovascular specialist at UT Health in San Antonio, adds that COVID-19 has also increased the demand for pulse oximeters lately. COVID-19 is a respiratory-borne illness, and admission to the hospital is often based on oxygenation status, Zeitjian says.

“While the virus may be present with a variety of symptoms, what should prompt someone to go to the hospital is an oxygen saturation of below 90%,” he explains.

Most pulse oximeters will label your results clearly to help you easily understand what you’re looking at.

You’ll notice two numbers: your oxygen level, or SpO2, and your heart rate.

Generally speaking, your SpO2 should be 95% or higher. Most people have a normal resting heart rate between 70-100 BPM.

If you get lower readings than these, a good next step is to contact your healthcare team. For a SpO2 reading below 90%, you’ll want to call 911 or have someone take you to the emergency room right away.

Chaim explains to Healthline that most at-home pulse oximeters provide accurate readings to users. But he warns that the accuracy of pulse oximetry readings can be influenced by a variety of factors.

What affects pulse oximeter readings?

For starters, nail polish color and decals can affect readings, as can acrylic or gel nails.

“Nail polish can affect pulse oximeter readings if it absorbs between 660-940 nanometers of light,” Zeitjian explained. “This is specifically seen in black, green, and blue nail polish. Also, keep in mind that artificial acrylic nails may also affect the accuracy of pulse oximeter readings.”

Additionally, Chen suggests that the following can affect the accuracy of readings:

  • anemia
  • low blood pressure
  • skin with more pigment
  • low body temperature
  • intravascular dyes, which are used at a hospital for certain tests

“Dark skin and intravascular dyes in the blood cause the sensor to have difficulty in reading oxygenation, as the coloring makes it harder to read,” Chen explains.

“Low blood pressure means blood volume, and anemia means fewer blood cells, which makes the sensor have a harder time seeing the data,” says Chen. “Similarly, low body temperature also makes blood vessels constrict, making it hard to read as well.”

When shopping for at-home pulse oximeters, Zeitjian says you have many brands to choose from and recommends opting for brands labeled “for medical use” and “FDA approved.”

These can be spotted on products found at stores such as CVS, Walgreens, and Target. Most pulse oximeters also measure your heart rate, which is also a plus to many.

If your oxygen level falls below 90%, you’ll want to connect with your doctor immediately. In most cases, this is not normal and might indicate a serious cause for concern.

That said, if you live with any type of chronic respiratory disease, your typical oxygen level may run lower than most people’s. Regardless, it’s best to make sure your doctor is aware of your readings.

You should also check in with a doctor if you notice that your heart rate is consistently above 100 BPM or below 60 BPM.

It’s best to call 911 or go to an emergency room right away if you experience symptoms like:

  • chest pain
  • dizziness
  • fainting
  • difficulty breathing

Which pulse oximeters are FDA-approved?

There are several pulse oximeters that are FDA-approved, including the Oxiline Pulse 7 Pro. Getting a prescription oximeter approved by the FDA for medical use ensures the product’s been vetted for accuracy.

There are many over-the-counter (OTC) options available that aren’t subject to FDA approval, though. These shouldn’t be used as medical devices.

What pulse oximeters do hospitals use?

While specific products vary by the hospital and its requirements, many hospitals use pulse oximeters created by the following medical manufacturers: Nonin, Philips, Masimo, Innovo, SantaMedical, or Veridian.

These are all well-respected companies that produce a variety of products appropriate for medical-grade use.

Can a fingertip pulse oximeter help detect coronavirus?

A fingertip pulse oximeter cannot diagnose COVID-19.

However, if you notice a low oxygen level on an OTC pulse oximeter, consult your doctor right away. If a low oxygen level reading is accompanied by serious symptoms, like shortness of breath, confusion, or chest pain, seek immediate medical attention.

You can use a pulse oximeter to monitor oxygen levels in the blood. You may find it helpful to use one of these devices if you have underlying respiratory and heart conditions, or if you have COVID-19.

When using a pulse oximeter, look for a healthy range between 98% and 99%. A reading under 90% requires immediate medical attention.

When shopping for pulse oximeters, opt for those with labels that guarantee safety and efficacy. Similarly, while there are many oximeters available for purchase, aim to stick with those you can attach to your fingertips, as they’re often the easiest to use.

The 9 Best Pulse Oximeters for At-Home Use (2024)

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