Oximeters . Yes No or Maybe? - Asthma UK communi...

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Oximeters . Yes No or Maybe?


Seems a lot of publicity on pulse oximeters around. What do you think Emma? You gave me the top advice on "preventers" that's why I'm addressing you. So, should I spend thirty quid at Boots or maybe Argos? They sound like they may be a life_saver.

36 Replies

blf.org.uk/support-for-you/... maybe worth a read. Until you hear from Emma 🙂. She has stated about this topic before you should be able to find the thread.


I bought an oximetor some years ago and use it regularly until the novelty wore off. I recently bought a realme watch that keeps track of all the walking I do..my sleep patterns, my oxygen levels, my heart beats.

You can contact it to your mobile..really useful.

I bought another water proof one that i can use for when I go swimming.

There are other makes on the market. Worth having a look at.

There was a news item the other day that many groups if not all, would be issued with oximeters, in the fight against Covid. It was a serious programme, C4 news or BBC news, I think. Is it true? No idea! But if you are thinking about it just perhaps wait a few moments to see if this happens.

Oximeters are not reccomended in asthma as they are an unreliable indicator of severity. You could be having a severe attack but your pulse oximetry is normal or can be giving a false reading.

Always go by how you feel, symptoms over numbers.

This link can hopefully explain better.


I saw a news item on BBC in the last week - NHS doctors are now saying that having an oximeter at home for potential covid patients may save them from declining too much before seeking treatment. So if their oxygen levels drop to low 90s and they seek treatment it is better than unknowingly sliding into silent hypoxia which potentially requires more invasive treatment in ICU. It's all about managing resources and keeping patients out of ICU. bbc.co.uk/news/health-55733527

Jimmy-Lyden in reply to Poobah

Yeah, I saw that too. The thing is, having had a couple of these over the years I'm not too sure how accurate they are as it appears I'm usually in the 92 - 95% bracket at the best of times.

I saw that they said if it went below 92% to call GP or 111

That depends on your diagnosis. Someone with COPD can have lower saturation, which for them is normal. Like blood pressure, saturation fluctuates throughout the day and with activity. It’s best to ask your doctor what your personal limitations are and take multiple readings to establish your own normal.

It's a difficult thing with asthma and covid because, like Melanie says above, they're not recommended in asthma. I see what they're saying re covid but for people with both it's a potentially grey/dangerous area.

Exactly this!

Fortunately Emma has explained it properly below 😅

redstar9 in reply to twinkly29

Agree. My O2 sats stay ok for ages whilst I am quietly filling up with CO2, O2 only drops at the last minute when I get into serious trouble. Happened last night in A&E. They thought I was ok even though O2 was a bit low. Left me without O2 or nebs with a surgical mask on as I have Covid making it all worse. This Was until my bloods came back and they did my obs again. Then it was panic stations and they were on phone to ITU. In the end I had IV paracetamol as temp through the roof, IV dexamethasone and back to back Ipatotropium and Salbutamol nebs. Finally improved and PF up to 320. Was maintaining my oxygen so they let me go home. Were only admitting people who needed O2 although agreed I should really be admitted. Have strict instructions to go back in if needed. Will probably be back in later. For me O2 monitoring not reassuring. Only tells me when it has become life threatening.

EmmaF91Community Ambassador

The issue with oximeters is using them responsibly. For COVID they can be really useful but if people then use them for asthma it gets dangerous.

I’ve heard of plenty of people who didn’t go to hospital with their asthma because ‘Sats are fine’ however that’s not a good indicator for asthma. If you wait until your Sats have severely dropped before seeking help then you’re going to be in real trouble as your body has lost its ability to compensate.

However the issue with covid is that in some people their Sats can be low and they won’t realise it (silent hypoxia). Here a oximeter is a good idea.

So if you can guarantee to ONLY use if with COVID then it’s definitely worth it. If you feel it’s likely that you’ll start using it to measure your asthma don’t do it. You don’t get an oximeter for your asthma unless you are personally advised to by a consultant. I’ve seen someone has already linked you to the AUK post about oximeters for asthma so I won’t do it 😉

So it’s not a yes and not a no. It’s about how much you trust yourself to be sensible and use it appropriately. Yes for a COVID measurement but no from an asthma POV.

Hope this makes sense and helps 😅

bandido2 in reply to EmmaF91

Thanks Emma. I probably didn't make myself clear enough. To explain, I will soon be undergoing minor day surgery (carpal tunnel) and I'm a bit concerned about mooching round a hospital in the face of covid. So I considered the idea of an oximeter "just in case". My thoughts were about coronavirus, not asthma. Your final paragraph confirms my initial opinion. I will purchase an oximeter and keep it with our "just in case" thermometer. Hopefully the Boots gadget is trustworthy, rather than taking a chance on the internet - Amazon, E-Bay etc. Unless anyone knows better......? Cheers Emma and thanks to all the other people who took an interest.

N972 in reply to EmmaF91

Interesting timing. My husband was given one as part of a study he’s doing regarding Covid in the community- along with lots of blood tests etc. His is always 98-100, so is my daughters. Mine has yet to go above 88 & has been down to 82. It’s been monitored in hospital in the past & never been below 94. I’m desperately hoping that the fact I have cold fingers might be the reason?? I’m severely asthmatic, but fit & active. I don’t feel different to ‘normal’ so haven’t done anything about it yet.

twinkly29 in reply to N972

It might well be as cold extremities can cause reading issues. Can you try a toe instead (which should be warmer having had socks/slippers/other coverings on them)? If it's still low I'd maybe call 111 for advice. One would think you'd be otherwise symptomatic with sats that were actually that low...but it would be better to get it checked.

I discovered mine didn’t work on my hands but worked on my big toe - then I realised it was because I was using nail polish. I was using mine for my pulse because I wasn’t feeling well and I saw my GP about it, I had heart traces etc done and was ok but I’d say if you are getting low readings then you should probably speak to your GP about it

Yes a dodgy heart as it's not reading properly would probably be equally alarming!

mauschen in reply to N972

Are you or have you been a smoker?

N972 in reply to mauschen

No never. I’ve continued to monitor & the highest I manage has been 92. I’ve made a telephone Drs appt.

mauschen in reply to N972

That’s the right thing to do. Perhaps he/she can arrange lung function tests. Good luck!

Capybara21 in reply to EmmaF91

Thanks for this reply. I've got an oximeter put by for Covid as I'm used to shortness of breath with any respiratory virus so I was worried I'd put up with too much SoB from Covid before asking for help. (But having read the "When do I" post on here, I've realised that maybe I should have been calling the GP some of those other times too...)

I admit the other week I did try the oximeter when my asthma was getting worse and was confused when the reading looked good, but I promise I won't do that again now!

EmmaF91Community Ambassador in reply to Capybara21

Glad that prev post helped! Please do call your GP when you’re having issues - don’t leave it!

And yeah. In asthma Sats don’t drop until you’re into life-threatening territory so you never decide you’re ‘not bad’ just because of good Sats. Go off your symptoms and your PF if that is reliable for you and treat it. Do not go off of Sats and ignore everything else! So I’m really please to hear that you won’t do that again ☺️

Capybara21 in reply to EmmaF91

I think I get put off calling the GP by all those public information campaigns over the years saying "Don't bother the doctor over a cold", even though I know what they really mean is "Don't keep making GP appointments to try to demand antibiotics for common cold symtoms" and not "Struggling asthmatics shouldn't ask for help if a cold was the trigger!"

What if you have asthma/copd overlap?

EmmaF91Community Ambassador in reply to Wanttobehapppy

Again I wouldn’t unless a consultant advised you. The only COPD patients I know who have home sats for it are the ones who have home o2 or are at the point on needing to maintain between 88-92%, OR they are a ‘special case’ so to say and have been told to get one (just like some asthmatics are told to get them but not all asthmatics).

If you don’t know you should speak about it with your medic and get their thoughts. With asthma we don’t drop until we can’t compensate at all. I have a feeling ACOS it’ll be something similar.

So if you haven’t been told to get one for ACOS then you’ll have the same risks as an asthmatic buying one.

Probes are great if you’ll only use it for measuring covid issues but not so much of you’re going to use it for measuring ACOS without any advice on it.

Hope this helps

Thank you for your informative answer, I agree

I have found an oximeter really useful in dealing with a possibly asthmatic child who is too young to tell you what is wrong with them. Not so useful for the asthma symptoms as for picking up chest infections. Twice it’s happened that she’s been obviously ill, the GP has missed it with their stethoscope (on one occasion two GPs missed it on subsequent days) and then I’ve picked it up with my oximeter and been able to tell them - her 02 was eg. 88. And they’ve then given her antibiotics. Ours cost £18 from Amazon.

I’ve used one for about 10 years - gratified identifying a drop on oxygen- high recommended by every practitioner I know

LysistrataCommunity Ambassador in reply to Dilly1958

As others on here have said, they're not usually recommended in asthma currently, even though they may be useful for COVID.

Asthmatics do not necessarily have a sats drop before they need urgent medical attention, and waiting for that to happen can be dangerous. Hence Asthma UK recommends asthmatics should not typically use/rely on them for asthma. Some healthcare professionals seem to rely too much on sats in asthma.


strange - its recommended by many respiratory consultants and its often the first thing they measure when you are admitted with an attack. Measuring daily or weekly and getting too understand your own personal normal is useful should you ever be taken ill so you can demonstrate you are aware of your status.... eg - if you are normally 95% as I am i will react if it drops and stays at 93% but someone who is normally 98% should react if it drops to 95%

LysistrataCommunity Ambassador in reply to Birthday60

Of course they measure it in hospital, but they're not supposed to rely on that alone. There are multiple markers of an acute severe.or life-threatening attack, and if sats are fine but you have other worrying indicators then they won't (or shouldn't according to guidelines) ignore them just because sats are fine.

For this reason, as AUK and others have said, you shouldn't generally be using a sats probe to make decisions about getting asthma care. You might need to go to hospital asap due to various other features but still have 98% on your sats monitor. If you wait for that to drop you could be in real trouble - hence they're not usually recommended.

The fact that some doctors recommend them doesn't mean it's a good idea for most people with asthma. Not all healthcare professionals understand how sats work in asthma and some can rely on them too much (eg 'your sats are fine you don't need treatment').

Hi, I recently had oximeter check at Drs and it was 95% now I know that is ok and normal but apart from lying down my Spo2 has always been 98 or 99%. (when lying down below 90% have to use CPAP at night).

I was in my local chemist and they had one for £14.99 so I picked one up. I am not being obsessive with it but only checking when I feel a need to. I am going by symptoms.

It is a useful tool but with all things don't need to use it unless feeling off and then as Emma says don't just rely on that reading before seeking help.

I bought one many years ago - mainly to check my pulse when my thyroid was overactive but I discovered it had the oxygen part on it. I found it fascinating to use and to see that deep breathing could get my level right up to 99 - it was a cheap one from Amazon, I don’t know if others register 100%.

This time last year I had a virus - looking back we suspect covid, I was using public transport in an area with a high number of Chinese and other tourists from that side of the world and amongst all the other things I discovered had lost my sense of taste.

At one point when I felt I wasn’t breathing well I got out my peak flow and discovered it was down to half of what it should have been, I then found the oximeter and found my oxygen level was low too so I doubled up on my preventer morning and night and spent time deep breathing until I got my oxygen level right up. I was really thankful that I had it and afterwards I heard that a friend of a friend put her recovery from covid down to the hospital physiotherapist and her deep breathing exercises so I was obviously doing the right thing.

I would buy one, I found it quite fascinating but the novelty of seeing your oxygen level / pulse eventually wears off so it’s not as if you get obsessed or addicted to it.

Gosh this is so interesting about the oxygen sats, the monitors are often used in my ward for regular obs taking (general ward) but I have also heard what so many of you experience that some health care professionals rely on sats dropping to diagnose a chest problem at that moment.

When I was at work in August/sept (before diagnosis) I was still getting really short of breath whilst working after having covid in May, a colleague checked mine and they were 95 - I was told to take a deep breath and they went down (no idea why🙈) but did go up eventually to 97 when checked later that day. It’s strange how the body works, learning every day! The asthma nurse at my surgery checks out o2. Mine has been 98. But I have often heard the words in hospital sats are ok but people are really short of breath, it must be awful for the patient when feeling like that.

I have had an oximeter for quite a while and I believe this could have saved my life. I was diagnosed with asthma 3 years ago but have never, touch wood, had a serious episode and it is well controlled. I wasn’t feeling well, ached all over, headache, dizzy and no appetite. Called doctor who prescribed cocodomol over phone. No improvement so husband rang 111 who diagnosed vertigo and doctor prescribed more medication. After 5days no better and had fever. Husband used oximeter which read O2 level of 86. Husband rang 111 again to be told that my oxygen levels couldn’t possibly be that low and she said she could hear me breathing ok and I didn’t sound breathless. She said she would ask a doctor to ring. When he rang my husband described symptoms and also told him oximeter reading. He told my husband to put the oximeter on himself. Reading 98 so doctor said he was calling an ambulance for me and they put me straight on oxygen and a drip. I was diagnosed with COVID with pneumonia and spent 10 days in hospital. Never lost sense of smell or taste. Luckily I have made a full recovery but am really thankful I had an oximeter. Best £20 I have ever spent.

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