On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a public warning on the “limitations” of the popular pulse oximeter.
Pulse oximeters, which measure oxygen levels, have emerged as a useful clinical tool amid the Covid-19 pandemic because of the way the virus interferes with the body’s natural production of oxygen.
In hospitals, the devices play a critical role in making decisions about patient care. During the first wave of infections, health practitioners suggested the devices could be helpful to have on hand at home (similar keeping a thermometer), at-home versions of the devices started to sell at island drugstores like Key Pharmacy and Ethos, and e-commerce sites like Amazon.
The FDA says oxygen saturation values between 95% and 100% are normal for most healthy individuals, but sometimes can be lower in people with lung problems.
Friday’s FDA alert reads, in part, “Be aware that multiple factors can affect the accuracy of a pulse oximeter reading, such as poor circulation, skin pigmentation, skin thickness, skin temperature, current tobacco use, and use of fingernail polish.”
For the complete FDA advisory, click here.