CPR First Aid

What Is an Oximeter

What Is an Oximeter?

An oximeter is a medical device that is essential to be a part of any type of first aid kit. Using it is part of a first aid response in determining if someone needs oxygen. It may be Hypoxemia wherein oxygen levels in the blood are lower than normal. With the help of an oximeter, the detection of medical emergencies like hypoxemia may be done as early as possible. Let’s find out more about this life-saving medical device, first aid kits, and hypoxemia below.

Knowing What an Oximeter Is

An oximeter is a painless and non-invasive medical devise used in pulse oximetry. It is a method in medicine that measures the saturation of oxygen in a person’s blood. Usage of an oximeter is part of first aid practices in responding to possible hypoxemia. It is considered a medical emergency and must be responded to quickly. So, it is recommended to include an oximeter in every first aid kit at home and the workplace due to its usefulness and portable size.

The Usefulness of an Oximeter

An oximeter can measure the following without having to draw a blood sample:

  • Oxygen level(saturation) of the blood.
  • Pulse rate.

The results are usually displayed on the oximeter’s screen using light beams.

Why Oxygen Level of the Blood Needs to Be Measured?

According to Cleveland Clinic, the oxygen level of the blood will be measured if someone is:

  • Having trouble breathing.
  • Injured in the head or neck, which can affect breathing.
  • Positive with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
  • Having pneumonia.
  • Having carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Having a smoke inhalation injury.
  • Having multiple episodes of nausea and/or vomiting.
  • Having a drug overdose.

Results from using an oximeter may help determine a first aider or a health professional what to do next. In addition, using an oximeter to measure someone’s oxygen level may be done if a patient is having any of the following lung conditions:

The test is done to check if the treatments for the above conditions are working.

Normal Oxygen Level

According to Healthline, a normal oxygen level is between 80 and 100 millimetres of mercury (mm Hg). Once the level goes down to 80 mm Hg, it may indicate hypoxemia, which is considered to be a cause of concern. It may lead to complications in body tissue and organs, especially if not detected early.

Why Pulse Rate Needs to be Measured

Pulse rate is measured to check how fast your heart is beating. There is considered to be a normal range of heartbeat per minute (bpm). If the heartbeat does not fall within this range, it may indicate heart disease or another problem.

The Range for a Normal Heart Beat

Heartbeats may change temporarily, especially after physical activity. So using an oximeter to measure the pulse rate is advised when a person is at rest and did not do any activity earlier. The pulse rate in this state is called a normal resting heart rate. Ideally, it is between 60 and 100 beats a minute according to Healthdirect.

What does an Oximeter look Like?

An oximeter is a small device that is described to look like a chip clip or a big clothespin by some people. A typical oximeter may have the following measurements:

  • 2 inches to 3 inches in length.
  • At least 1.4 inches in width.
  • At least 1.5 inches in height.

An oximeter has also a screen to view results, a button, and a space for a battery.

Using an Oximeter

The first aid steps in using an oximeter may be some of the easiest to follow which include:

  1. Check if an oximeter has batteries.
  2. Turn the oximeter on.
  3. Clip the oximeter on the end of a finger, making sure that the nail is facing up.

The results will then be displayed on the screen after a few seconds.

The Results Displayed by an Oximeter

As mentioned above, an oximeter measures the oxygen level and the pulse rate. Measurements of both will be displayed on the oximeter screen after following the above-mentioned steps. The oxygen level will be indicated by a “SpO2” and pulse rate by a “PR”. Below are the ideal oximeter readings and results as they mean a normal range for both:

  • 95%-100% SpO2.
  • 60-100 bpm PR as mentioned above.

Results outside these ranges may indicate the following problems in a person’s health which may be a concern:

  • Hypoxemia – is a serious condition that may cause death to a patient if it is untreated.
  • Tachycardia and Bradycardia – are heart conditions that must be provided with medical treatment.

All of which must be treated with medical care to prevent further complications in a person’s body. It may be done especially with the help of an oximeter that helps in detecting such conditions.

Possible Health Conditions Detected by an Oximeter

Fortunately, medical devices like oximeters detect the signs of certain health conditions. This allows patients to be treated as soon as possible before a condition gets worse. Further information about these will be discussed below.

What is Hypoxemia?

As mentioned above, hypoxemia is a condition wherein oxygen level is below normal. It may be indicated by an oxygen level of below 80 mm Hg. If not detected early with the help of an oximeter and treated, it may damage the heart or brain.

Treatment for Hypoxemia

After being detected with the use of an oximeter, this condition may then be treated with medications or treatments to help raise oxygen levels. It may include an inhaler, oxygen tanks, oxygen concentrators, or ventilators.

What is Tachycardia?

When an oximeter detects a person’s pulse rate to be 100 bpm, it may indicate that the person is having Tachycardia. If not treated properly, it may lead to heart failure, stroke, or sudden cardiac death.

Treatment for Tachycardia

If this is detected by an oximeter, a patient may then be treated with proper medication, implanted devices, or other surgeries or procedures. 

What is Bradycardia?

If an oximeter reads a PR of 60bpm, it may mean an occurrence of Bradycardia. If left undetected and untreated, it may lead to complications like frequent fainting, heart failure, sudden cardiac arrest, or sudden death.

Treatment for Bradycardia

Once Bradycardia is detected by an oximeter, a patient may then make lifestyle or medication changes, as prescribed by a doctor. In addition, he/she may have to use an implanted device called a pacemaker.

What to Do if an Oximeter Detects Health Conditions?

Oximeters are already helpful enough in detecting the above health conditions. However, what if an oximeter does detect an abnormal oxygen level and pulse rate? Calling 000 for emergency help is advised and performing first aid responses may be helpful while waiting for them.

First Aid to Hypoxemia

Maintaining a patient’s airway is important for first aid management for hypoxemia. If he/she is unconscious, they may be placed in a recovery position. This is advised to be done while waiting for the patient to be transferred to a hospital in Perth for medical treatment.

First Aid to Tachycardia

The following first aid tips may be followed in attempting to slow a fast heart rate:

  • Coughing.
  • Bearing down.
  • Putting an ice pack on your face.

These are parts of a vagal manoeuvre, a technique that may be done with the help of a first aider who has enrolled in a first aid course in 123C Colin St West Perth 6005.

First Aid to Bradycardia

Verywell Health mentions that atropine sulfate is considered the first line of treatment for bradycardia. This is available only with a doctor’s prescription.


An oximeter is a portable, painless, and non-invasive medical device recommended to be part of every first aid kit. It reads oxygen level and pulse rate wherein abnormal results may indicate serious health conditions. If detected early, these may be treated as early as possible to avoid further complications.

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