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  • Writer's picturePulse Oximeter World

Are Pulse Oximeters Accurate?


woman shrugging shoulders pulse oximeters

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration mandated all pulse oximeters have an accuracy of +/-3% for SpO2 reading between 70%-99%. Most consumer based pulse oximeters are accurate with +/- 2%. For example. You get a SpO2 reading of 94%, This means your blood oxygen saturation level could be as low as 92% or as high as 96%. It is important to take consistent readings to establish a personal baseline.


Several factors play a role in inaccurate readings: poor circulation, cold hands, fake nails, nail polish, carbon monoxide poisoning, and choice of finger. If your hands are cold, then try to warm them up prior to taking a reading. If you are wearing fake nails or have nail polish on, make sure the light sensor is not on the same side as your nails. The light needs to pass through your finger to obtain an accurate reading. If you suffer from CO poisoning or you smoke, then check out our video explaining the affect of CO on SpO2 readings. If you are concerned about your pulse oximeter's accuracy, you should take it with you to your health care provider. Your health care provider can test your pulse oximeter against theirs for accuracy.

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