Pulse Oximeters For Your Asthma

If you have asthma you are probably familiar with a pulse oximeter. If you or your child have ever complained of shortness of breath or had an asthma exacerbation, some healthcare provider has probably slapped one of these devices on your finger.


Pulse Oximetry at Home

One woman with her eyes closed

They are a quick way to tell how your body is exchanging oxygen and to make sure you are not hypoxic as a result of bronchoconstriction. Many patients and parents want to have one of these devices at home. While they are not usually part of an asthma action plan, they are sometimes included as part of PFTs.

In this article I review some of the features of popular pulse oximeters that are available for purchase by consumers. You can also check out the pros and cons of home pulse oximetry.


Invacare Digit Ox-2

Invacare Digit Ox-2 Pulse Oximeter.
Invacare Digit Ox-2 Pulse Oximeter. Courtesy of Pricegrabber

Invacare is a well-known supplier of home medical products. This particular pulse oximeter has a large LED screen with 10 different luminescence levels – optimal for reading at any angle with or without reading glasses. This one comes with two AAA batteries and a lanyard. In other words, the device comes with everything you need to get started – including the lanyard to help keep track of it.

It has a one-button operation with an auto-off feature to save battery power. When you look at it, it’ll have a black background with bright green lettering. You’ll see the SPO2 waveform as well as a pulse-strength bar meter. With each set of batteries, you’ll receive 16 hours of continuous use and 1400 different readings. It is manufactured by Probasics and comes with a two-year warranty.

Every pulse oximeter has its downsides. When compared to hospital grade devices, it can be seen as inaccurate. Furthermore, pulse oximeters may prove ineffective under certain conditions such as cardiac or respiratory arrest, cardiac arrhythmias, shock or carbon monoxide poisoning.


Drive 18705 Pulse Ox

Drive 18705 PulseOx
Drive 18705 PulseOx. Courtesy of Pricegrabber

Many pulse oximeters can give false readings when the user is wearing nail polish. The nice thing about this one is that it will tolerate users who use nail polish. This also means that it is more accurate than some of the other oximeters you may find on the home market. You may purchase it was either a 3.6v lithium battery or two AAA batteries. Either way, it will provide for a full 40 days of use or 1000 hours on each set of batteries. There are three power indicators – full power, when it is at one-third power and when the batteries are nearly depleted.

Not every company goes through the effort of getting their devices approved by the Food and Drug Administration that Drive Medical has. This device is FDA cleared as a Class II Medical Device. It is lightweight and affordable.

This one doesn’t have as many luminescence levels as others. Furthermore, this one doesn’t come with a lanyard – it may be easy to lose.


CMS 50 D

CMS-50 D
CMS-50 D. Courtesey Price Grabber

The CMS 50 has some features you won’t find anywhere else. Not only has it has been cleared by the FDA as a Class II Medical Device, but it comes with the lanyard, the typical black and green LED screen, and a long battery life. There’s a bar pulse indicator right there on the screen to help you obtain a strong and accurate reading. This particular pulse oximeter can be used at high altitudes, low altitudes, high temperatures and low temperatures. This makes it ideal for outdoor enthusiasts – hikers, campers or anyone else who may enjoy life outdoors.

Whenever you’re looking at an LCD screen outdoors, it can appear dark and difficult to read. That’s not the case with this one – it has 10 different brightness levels to make it easier to read in bright sunlight.

One of the faults of pulse oximeters on the home market is that they may provide a false reading. This is particularly applicable to this one as outdoor enthusiasts can push themselves the point where they’re out of breath – yet the pulse oximeter can still show that oxygen saturation levels are OK.



CMS- 50DL. Courtesey of Price Grabber

Instead of a green LCD screen, this one has a red one. Red LCDs are designed to be easy to read at night without bothering people who are asleep. This red LCD is particularly useful if you find yourself having to wake up in the middle of the night to take a quick reading. You’ll find that the red LCD won’t hurt your eyes if you’re groggy – this isn’t a true with any other color. This one also comes with two AAA batteries and a lanyard. Just like the CMS 50, it can be used at high altitudes, low altitudes, high temperatures and low temperatures. However, it doesn’t have 10 different brightness indicators – this can make it difficult to read in bright sunlight.

This also has a long battery life – use it for 30 continuous hours or perform 2500 spot checks with it. It has a pulse rate, SPO2 reading and a bar graph.

If you’re patient who needs one of these, make sure that you monitor and keep a log of your various saturation levels throughout the day and while performing various activities – especially if you’re an outdoor enthusiast and plan on using this outdoors.


Go-2 Achieve

GO 2- Achieve
GO 2- Achieve. Courtesy of Pricegrabber

Nonin manufactures this one – they are known for their hospital-grade accurate readings. Furthermore, it has been proven to retain its accuracy with people who have darker skin tones and in cases of low profusion. Most pulse oximeters and the home market utilize two AAA batteries – this one only uses one. It is bright pink and comes in a case that makes it drop-resistant and water-resistant. On a single battery, it will last for over 21 hours of continuous use or 2400 spot checks. What it doesn’t have is a bright LCD screen – this can turn many people away from the Go-2 Achieve. The battery indicator indicates when it is at full power, half power and when it nearly depleted. Although this may be difficult to read in bright daylight, it does function accurately at high altitudes, low temperatures and high temperatures.

The one thing you should never be using your pulse oximeter for is to determine how you’re feeling. This is especially true if you’re out of breath. Your asthma monitoring will include looking for symptoms like cough, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness. If this is the case, or if you’re experiencing other symptoms that may bring alarm, contact a medical professional immediately.



Child With Inhaler
Child With Inhaler. Photo courtesy of NIH (Public domain)

Pulse oximeters are tools to allow you to measure how well oxygen is getting into your blood. While not usually part of your plan to achieve asthma control, many patients want to monitor their oxygenation status.

Was this page helpful?