CPR First Aid

What Oxygen Saturation Levels in an Oximeter Mean?

What Oxygen Saturation Levels in an Oximeter Mean

When it comes to one’s health, monitoring how certain body parts work is of prime importance. This allows doctors to see how well we are doing or what is afflicting us.

The recent pandemic was particularly tough. The COVID-19 virus was quick and aggressive, often making it hard to glean any symptoms before it was too late.

Eventually, more information came and people were able to self-check themselves for several symptoms. One of them is oxygen saturation levels.

In this article, we’ll talk about the various levels as analysed by an oximeter mean. We hope that this information will help people understand the readings for each person in the future.

What is an Oximeter?

Before we get to the relevant levels, let’s get everyone on the same page first by talking about what this device is.

This device is a small, clip-like device that you attach to your finger. It has a light sensor that beams through your skin to the blood vessels below. It then takes readings of how much oxygen is in your blood. The results are displayed on a small digital screen for easy reading.

They are painless and easy to use, making them popular tools for monitoring one’s health.

Why is it Important to Know How Much Oxygen is in Blood?

Oxygen is vital for the human body as it helps all our cells function properly.

It’s delivered to different parts of the body through the bloodstream. The blood vessels transport oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.

The amount of oxygen in the blood is an important indicator of a person’s health. It lets doctors know how well a person is breathing and if there are any issues with their lungs or heart.

How Does It Measure Blood Oxygen Levels?

This device works by using a light sensor to beam through the skin to the blood vessels below. With this light on, the tip of one’s finger looks red. This light sensor then measures how much oxygen is in one’s blood by analysing the light absorption in either oxygenated or deoxygenated blood. The results are displayed on a small digital screen for easy reading.

A person’s blood oxygen level can drop for many reasons, such as if they have an infection or are not getting enough oxygen into their lungs. A low blood oxygen level can be a sign of a serious health condition and should be checked by a doctor.

Why Are They Relevant to COVID-19?

The coronavirus targets the lungs, making it hard for people to breathe.

One of the first symptoms that people experience is shortness of breath. This is because the virus is making it difficult for the lungs to get oxygen to the rest of the body.

That’s why doctors have been using oximeters during the pandemic to check on patients.

By monitoring a person’s oxygen levels, doctors can see how well their lungs are functioning and if they need any extra help to breathe.

Bear in mind that this device has little to no effect on how the virus affects a person. Instead, it is treated as a monitoring tool that informs people whether they have the virus or not. 

Oxygen Saturation Levels and What They Mean?

Now that we know what this device does, let’s move on to the different levels and what they mean.

An oxygen saturation level is the percentage of oxygen in the blood. It’s measured and displayed as a number between 0% to 100%.

Here are the different oxygen levels and what they mean.


This is considered normal and healthy. The blood is carrying the optimal amount of oxygen to the body.


This is considered lower than normal but not necessarily cause for concern. However, it’s worth keeping an eye on as it could be a sign of developing respiratory or heart problems. In today’s climate – with the COVID-19 virus running rampant – a level of below 95% may already require you to talk to a doctor.


This is considered low and may indicate that a person has a lung or heart condition. A reading within this range requires medical attention.


This is considered very low and is a sign of serious respiratory distress. A reading this low requires immediate medical attention as it could be fatal.

Guidelines For Correct Usage

Now that you know the different oxygen saturation tiers and what they mean, it’s time to learn how to use them correctly. Oximeters are small, handheld devices that are easy to use. However, there are a few guidelines that you need to follow to ensure accurate readings.

Here are some guidelines for using an oximeter.

Ensure it Fits Correctly

Oximeters come in different sizes, so make sure you get one that fits snugly on your finger. If it’s too loose, it will allow external light to interfere in the area where the reading is taking place. This will give you an inaccurate reading.

Remove Nail Polish or False Nails

Nail polish or false nails can interfere with the light sensor and give you an inaccurate reading. So, if you’re wearing either of these, make sure to remove them before taking your oxygen saturation reading.

Careful of Dyes or Henna Ink

Dyes or henna ink can also interfere with the light sensor and give you an inaccurate reading. So, if you have any of these on your hands, make sure to wash them off before taking your oxygen saturation reading.

Ensure a Warm Hand Resting Below Heart Level

It’s important to have a warm hand when taking your oxygen saturation reading. This is because cold hands can cause the arteries to constrict, which will give you an inaccurate reading.

To ensure a warm hand, place it below heart level for at least 5 minutes before taking your oxygen saturation reading.

How to Increase Levels?

There are many factors that affect a person’s oxygen saturation reading. For COVID, lower readings are usually accompanied by difficulty breathing, a fever, a headache, and many more.

Other conditions like asthma may also be the culprit.

Consequently, it is also possible for a person to feel perfectly okay and have low readings.

In order to check whether the levels can be increased, follow these simple tips.

Breathing Techniques

One way to potentially increase your oxygen saturation reading is by practising some breathing techniques. This can help to improve the amount of oxygen that’s being delivered to your lungs.

One breathing technique is called the pursed lip technique. This is where people breathe in through the nose and out through the pursed lips. The exhalation must be twice as long as the inhalation.


Another way to potentially increase your oxygen saturation reading is by exercising. Exercise helps to improve the function of your respiratory system.

It also helps to increase the amount of blood flow and, as a result, the amount of oxygen that’s being delivered to your organs and tissues.

So, if you’re looking for ways to potentially increase your oxygen saturation reading, exercise is a good option. In fact, even taking a leisurely walk may prove beneficial.

Every Breath is Important

Oxygen saturation levels can vary depending on a person’s health and activity level. However, it’s important to know the different oximeter levels and what they mean. 

If you have any concerns about your oxygen levels, it’s best to talk to a doctor. They can help to determine the cause of your low readings and provide treatment accordingly.

Additionally, if you come across someone who is having a hard time breathing, getting them to a hospital may take too long. It is always best to know what to do when these emergencies happen.

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