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British Lung Foundation
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I got a finger pulse Oximeter

Rightly or wrongly, I sent for an oximeter from amazon, £20.99. I am going to keep a diary of Richard's readings , like when I take the reading , what he has been doing etc. Only got it today, took a reading as he was sat eating lunch, 91, after he got up from table, walked across into other room, reading was down to 85, but came up again when he sat. Can anybody advise me whether its the right thing to do. I know his fingers go blue at the slightest exertion, don't know if it will help knowingwhat his oxygen level is, but last time he had a bad exacerbation and I called an ambulance, the reading was 74, prompting a hospital stay. I don't want to panic, and realise that I must give it chance to come up when it's down. Does anyone do home readings, or am I being naughty and playing nurse, and if so should I buy the nurses outfit from ann summers. I aren't being serious about that bit by the way, I wouldn't want to send his blood pressure up as well as his oxygen level.

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34 Replies

I must add that his blood pressure wouldn't go up with passion, after 40 years he would think I had gone bonkers and would be scared who would look after him with me locked up.

Hi amagran,

Panic not :) most of the copd'ers who use oxygen have been using oxymeters for some years now. Like most of us you will probably find yourself using it umpteen times a day to begin with, and that's fine. You will get used to what is 'normal' for your husband over time. I use mine when exercising so I know when I am pushing too hard and can stop and rest until they come back up . There are a number of guides to using an oximeter on the internet so I will look one or two out and paste them for you - or someone might even beat me to it as we all use them. In the meantime, don't worry if there are brief drops below the 88% , it is more of a worry when there are more serious and sustained drops without no apparent reason - so if for instance they were dropping to 85 when he is relaxed and not moving around that would be something to keep an eye on, but if there was a reason for the temporary drop such as some form of exercise, then it is more understandable. Anyway - better to find a couple of good guides / articles for you, so i'm off to look for a couple. P :)


Hope this link works ... I don't have a brilliant track record with pasting them right but lets give it a try lol :)

Some respiratory Doc's / nurses are quite dogmatic re sticking to a certain 02 flow rate as outlined on your prescription eg 2 litres per minute say, but if you have a good relationship with your respiratory nurse and there are no indications to the contrary, such as co2 retention for example, and if you educate yourself as much as possible as regards desirable 02 levels etc, you may be able to reach a place where you are given their blessing to adjust the flow rate to suit as needed. It took me some time to reach this place myself - almost a year - but finally I convinced them that I understood enough to be trusted to 'titrate' for myself. So pottering around the house I use 2 lpm, exercising i up it to whatever is needed to keep me at or between 92 and 96%. When I do my daily mile walk I tend to need 4lpm at the start but am on 5 or 6 lpm by the time i am halfway through - whatever it takes to keep me reasonably oxygenated. Do note though that you would need to check things and discuss with your 02 prescriber first. As mentioned, there are instances when it is important to use only the minimal amount required, as in co2 retention. It may be that the pulmonary fibrosis aspect changes things - i only have copd so wouldn't know about this. Anyhow, good luck with your oximeter, and best wishes to you and yours, Parvat x

thanks a lot for help

You do what I do. I adjust my oxygen based on my activity and it seems to work for me as well.

I would get your oximeter checked against those used by health care professionals Community Matron's, respiratory nurses, doc, consultant etc to be sure it is giving accurate readings.

The Community Matron is accessible through your GP, the CM does home visits and can check Richard's readings and advise you about using the oximeter ie hand temperature, making sure finger end is in contact with sensor etc. You will also be able to check the accuracy of your oximeter against CM's. The CM can advise you on what the normal is with fluctuations in sats.

Richard is enjoying having you as his private nurse I think :) and possible you are enjoying the role to. Enjoy the role play ;)

THe oximeters are pretty accurate. I have measured mine against the doctor's office and the hospital and they are within a point of each other.

Hi Amagran

I have Pulmonary fibrosis (chest consultants now calling it non-specific interstitial pneumonitis because auto-immune sytem cause) and pulmonary hypertension ( a recent acquisition). I got myself an oximeter when I cam out of hospital this time last year after a 10 day stay. At that point I had a significant deterioration and had to begin to use ambulatory oxygen - now also have to use it for 8 hours at night. Anyway, like others, I found myself using it fairly frequently at first, particularly when moving about the house or going upstairs. At that point it helped me to get to grips with my worsened breathlessness. After a short while I found I used it much less frequently as I gained confidence in not only my ability to survive some exercise and becoming breathless, but also as I realised how quickly my Sats recovered if I stopped what I was doing and controlled my breathing or sat down and did the same thing. Now I do carry it in my handbag but probably go weeks with out using it. Some people will say it can add to stress. For me it did the opposite - allowed me to feel that I could manage my breathing and my condition.

Hope it helps you and your husband.


thanks everyone for their help

I always have nail polish on and my sats have always registered. Occassionally if the polish is too dark it may give a lower reading but that has never happened to me.

I have IPF and i work between 2/6LPM of O2 thats because I dont have an obstructive lung disease and dont have a problem with co2 build up. Please make sure you are able to alter your concentrator because they are usually locked off at the amount on your prescription.

I dont know much about COPD but i do know it can be dangerous to alter the flow because of co2 retention.

Richard has ipf but also emphysema, so we only stick to what the resp nurse says, but he is going to ask next time as he says it seems low

WOW - they lock off your oxygen at a certain liter?

They keep claiming about this co2 retention but more people die from congestive heart failure due to lack of oxygen than from co2 retention. I will take my chances.


Sounds to me like Richard could use some oxygen. If his fingers are blue that is serious. In the US you would be given oxygen to use for sleping and walking with numbers like that. I was reluctant to wear oxygen but once I di I realized I was feeling much better and sleeping better too. A 91 sitting is pretty low because the minute you start moving around it will drop.

Richard does have oxygen for walking out. this morning first thing in bed he was 90, after the toilet he was 87 and after getting dressed he was 85, but it did come back up again. he only uses the oxygen for out and about.

These times when it drops means there is less oxygen going to the brain, heart, kidneys, liver too. It all adds ups after awhile

am getting a bit scared now, it dropped to 75 after his bath, took a good 7 minutes to come back up


In no way did I want to frighten you but I think he needs to be on the oxygen whenever he does anything other than sit. 75 is far too low and 7 minutes too long. Have him whear the oxygen while bathing if possible.

Yes copdliving the O2 companies lock off our concentrators so we cant go over and above our prescription. If we're prescribed 2LPM then the machine is locked on 2 so we cant get any more than that. Funny thing is I have an emergency backup cylinder here in case of a power cut and that goes up to 15LPM and I could use that on 15 if i felt i was desperate enough. I have known of a PF patient who suffered a pneumothorax and the 15LPM saved her life.


Shows how misinformed they are about our lungs. They do the same thing her in the hospitals. I was iin there and I always raise mine to 3-4 liters when I shower. They all freaked out because I raised it from 2 -4. IT was like I was going to kill myself. LOL TOld them I know better than they do because I'm the one who's been using it every day. DO they think our O2level stays at the sitting level when we walk or do other activities? They lack common sense about our disease.

My reading right now is 90. It rarely goes above that. Normally it's about 88. I only have inhalers and no oxygen.Is that ok ?

No -that is not OK. Long term low oxygen level causes heart damage. I run my so that my O2 is always over 93. Have been doing that for over 6 years and no problems. I still get around and shop, go out to dinner, climb stairs, etc.

A shame they keep you in the dark over there. Visit the forum I started with a friend who also has COPD and read what we've been up to. it's a copdliving.com

Hi, We do use an oximeter I was advised to by my sister (who is a nurse) so that I would know what is normal for my husband which would help us when he was ill. So thats what we do! Good Luck TAD xx

I have been told in no uncertain terms by my consulant that home oxymeters bought from chemist or the internet are a waste of time , but how come i get low readings from mine yet my husband who does not have COPD gets normal everytime ? , if it was giving false readings surley my husband would not get such good readings .

They want us to stay dumb about this. I have been mocked by nurses for having myown oximeter. They are accuarate so don't let anyone tell you otherwise

Exactly the same as me and my partner. Hers is always normal. The seem to dislike us knowing as much as they do !

There is nothing wrong and no difference between the finger tip pulse ox you use and the pulse ox your GP /nurse uses. In fact until recently many GP's and nurses didn't even have one at all. When I did pulmonary rehab at my local hospital three years ago, no one in the hospital had one - except myself. I was stunned. The respiratory nurse asked around the hospital to borrow one for herself, but she couldn't find one - I loaned her mine. Needless to say, after that embarrassment they made sure they had one by the end of our course!

UK copd patients had great difficulty in obtaining pulse ox's until a few years ago. They weren't available on Amazon / e bay back then and one had to locate a medical supplier. We have our copd friends in Canada and the USA to thank for leading the way, along with their Pulmonologists and specialist nurses. Not only were they ahead of us on this, but they had a more sensible and enlightened attitude towards patient use. If the diabetic can self monitor their disease, then why can't the copd'er?

Of course they are only really needed by those using oxygen, but still, as long as patients learn how to use one sensibly and understand the readings they have, there is no real case against there use. P.

PS. A good copd friend of mine who was hospitalised just a few weeks ago was having her sats read by a nurse. The nurses oxymeter wasn't working well at all - no doubt it was in need of a new battery or recharge - and a true reading couldn't be had. My friend 'saved the day' as she had her own pulse ox with her and was able to loan it to the nurse and have her sats officially noted! :)

Just went from sitting room to kitchen and back. Sats were 80 about ten minutes ago. Now gone up to 87. It will eventually go to about 88/90. This is with normal breathing and no deep intakes of breath to compensate. With slow deep breathing I can get it up to 92 but it wont stay there if I then breath normally. I wouldn't have been aware of any of this if I hadn't bought my own oximeter.

As a matter of interest. My sats a year ago when I was in hospital were 98%. Pulse was around 65. Pulse now is in the 90's on average. This was 4 weeks before getting diagnosed with COPD after giving up smoking.

Well i have a story to tell then , i saw a consulant last week it was not the one i was set to see , this consultant was indifferent towards my illness, i have been getting a high pulse reading 160 when active and I'm very breathless, when my heart calms down my oxygen Sat's drop they have dropped to 59 on my oxy and taken about 2 Min's to go back up, this consultant walked me ten yards down a corridor i was breathless he asked be to sit down i got my breath back and he walked me back to the room, he had put an oxy meter on me and said although my pulse was over 100 my Sat's were 99 , my husband tried to explain my Sat's drop when my heart calms down to no avail he then left the room without a bye your leave .

My husband was angry and asked the nurse to bring him back so she did , he said the heart consultant who i saw a month ago says your heart is fine to which my husband replied so whats causing the high pulse ? he was again ignored , the consultant then said i will send you for a full lung function test , my husband when we got home sent the consultant i was supposed to see an e mail out lining our poor consultation with this guy , he has now made me appointment to the COPD clinic at the hospital for blood gas test amongst other things , he also replied to my husband by letter and states that oxy meters for home use are no good , this morning a nurse from the COPD clinic phoned and asked me to take my oxy meter with me , so the plot thickens i shall keep you all updated of course .

I have found the same thing...too many "professionals" stick on the oximeter and take an instant reading. My sats drop about a minute after i have walked or had any kind of exertion and takes at least 2 minutes to climb back.

Next time you have your sats taken especially if you have walked into the room ask them to wait a minute or so. I also used to find that the nurses taking my O2 levels would wait until they got the best reading before recording it in my notes. Surely the consultant wants to see what the reading is when it drops. But what do we know we're only the patients. :-(

This consultant seems to want to prove that my oxy meter is no good but i have COPD friends that have them i have used theirs and also get low readings once my heart settles , in the USA and Canada we have learned they call this after pulse reading , seems it doesnt exist here .

There are numerous pdf documents you can download that advise the correct and safe use of oximeters.

There are several things that can affect an accurate reading and also some good recommendations about what to ask the doctor to be sure of accurate readings and when to contact health care professionals. Sometimes you have to check out a variety of documents to find more comprehensive information.

For those wanting to read more about this subject I have included some links below which I hope will be of help and interest.

Some examples;

inhaled smoke of any kind could affect readings: pulseox.info/pulseox/limits...

Skin pigmentation may affect readings on certain pulse oximeters:


There can be several things that may cause inaccurate readings, I feel its always worth being aware.

Here is a UK article on pulse oximeter:


I find you can learn more information by searching and visiting several sites.

Here is a pdf manual from the World Health Organisation for Patient Safety using a Pulse Oxymetry training manual:



Happy Jubilee weekend everyone.

Next time he sees doctor see if you get the same reading on your oximeter as the doctors, some of these meters are highly inaccurate,had one say pulse was 73,the real pulse was 148,don't trust until you compare against another one,allow 5+/-

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