Looking to buy a pulse oximeter? The tool, which measures oxygen levels in the blood, has become almost as popular a household item as thermometers during the novel coronavirus outbreak. (Read more about what a pulse oximeter is here).
The reason for it's popularity is that it can help indicate the severity of shortness of breath, providing an important clue as to whether the sensation is a true emergency, or perhaps something related to allergies or anxiety.
If you're looking for a pulse oximeter to have on hand as part of your household coronavirus survival kit, know that they are almost as hard to come by as toilet paper and Clorox wipes. They're also another item that experts recommend the public should purchase only out of absolute necessity to prevent shortages for health care workers.
The good news is that there are a number of other alternatives on the market, namely smart watches and fitness trackers, that also have pulse oximeter functions and can help monitor oxygen levels and other key vital signs, too. Here, we've rounded up a few of the best options for both pulse oximeters and smart watches with a pulse ox function that we've seen.
Note that this article is for information purposes only. Neither a pulse oximeter reading nor this article are not substitutes for professional medical advice. If you're feeling shortness of breath and have difficulty completing normal tasks like walking across a room or up a flight of stairs without stopping, or your shortness of breath is accompanied by blue lips, trouble waking, or altered levels of consciousness, you should head to the E.R.
How to choose a pulse oximeter
It's important to note that many of the low-cost pulse oximeters available to the public are not accurate. According to an independent study of six inexpensive, widely available pulse oximeters, only two, the Contec CMS50DL and Beijing Choice C20, were deemed accurate.
Where to buy a pulse oximeter
We did manage to find one of the two recommended (See box) pulse oximeters available on eBay. There are lots of other models also available on eBay, but we suggest researching any pulse oximeter before purchasing to ensure it's accurate.
Contec CMS50DL Pulse Oximeter | $56.36 on eBay
This pulse oximeter is one of the few we can recommend. It was tested in a study and found to be almost as accurate as professional, FDA-approved pulse oximeters, which is not the case for all publicly available models.
Smart-watches and fitness trackers with pulse oximeter functions
If you've been thinking about buying a smart watch or fitness tracker, now might be the time to do it, since a number of them come with pulse oximeter functions built in (look for a watch with an SpO2 sensor). Again, these are meant more as screening tools that diagnostic ones, but getting a good oxygen reading can be useful in helping quell an oncoming anxiety attack. A few of the models below also measure stress levels.
Garmin vívoactive® 4 |$349.99 at Garmin
This Garmin smartwatch was originally designed to measure oxygen levels in the blood during workouts, a signal of overall fitness. This smartwatch comes in six colors, is pre-loaded with 20+ sports apps, has a wallet function, and even tracks stress levels (cue those meditation apps). View Deal
Garmin vívosmart® 4 |$129.99 at Garmin
Looking for something a little more affordable? The vivosmart 4 is a pared-down version of the vivoactive, but it's also priced more than $200 less and still tracks blood oxygen levels.View Deal
FitBit Ionic|$204.54 at Target
The Fitbit Ionic model also comes with the ability to measure blood oxygen levels. It also does all the usual Fitbit things like measuring activity levels, plus it plays music phone-free.View Deal
FitBit Versa 2 |$229.95 at Best Buy
In addition to measuring your steps, calories burned, and heart rate, the FitBit Versa 2 comes with a built-in SpO2 sensor that tracks the oxygen levels in your blood. Helpful now, and also later for workouts.View Deal