Is an oxygen level of 92, 93, or 94 bad: What’s too low?

Just like any other smart system, our body has some requirements too. These requirements should be met so we can perform optimally. From eating at least three balanced meals a day to sleeping about 8 hours each night, there’s a lot that our body demands of us. But most importantly, it requires a proper oxygen intake. Every cell in our body needs a good supply of oxygen to work well. 

But how do you know you’re getting enough oxygen? What’s the standard oxygen level? Why is it crucial to monitor your blood oxygen saturation levels? And how can you measure your blood oxygen level in your home? We’ll talk about each of these questions but first, let’s understand why a standard oxygen level is important for you.

Your blood oxygen level is the volume of oxygen your red blood cells carry. Our body precisely regulates our body balance, including our blood oxygen level. This balance is vital for our health.

Most of us don’t need to monitor our blood oxygen levels. But if there is shortness of breath or chest pain, it’s a sign that you should visit your doctor and start watching your blood oxygen level. However, people with chronic health conditions must regularly monitor their oxygen levels. These chronic conditions may include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, and heart disease.

finger pulse oximeter

What are SPO2 and PR BPM?

The saturation level is the measure of our blood oxygen. Medical terms for oxygen saturation level are PaO2, measured with blood gas, and SPO2, measured with an oximeter.

An oximeter or pulse ox is a small fingertip device. After you place your finger inside the oximeter, the device shows the oxygen saturation level and heart level.

The oxygen saturation level is shown as an SPO2 reading, and the heart rate as PR BPM. PR BPM here refers to pulse rate and beats per minute.

What is a Normal Oxygen Level?

Every individual is unique. You’ll often find even identical twins behave differently. The same distinctness applies to your oxygen saturation level as well. However, many medical studies have concluded that a normal blood oxygen level typically falls between 95% and 100%.

If you have a health condition like pulmonary disease or heart disease, your oxygen saturation level can be different and the above ranges may not apply. However, it is quite common for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) patients to maintain their SPO2 levels in the range of 88% to 92%.

Are oxygen levels 92, 93, and 94 bad?

The normal oxygen levels fall between 95% to 100% saturation. A level of 94% means there is still enough oxygen in your blood. But anything lower than 90% is critical, and you should see your physician. The oximeter readings between 92% and 94% also come in the category of “seek advice from your General Physician.”

The oximeters also give a reading of 93% to 94% in the state of rest. If this reading remains the same after checking again in an hour, it is normal. If not, you need to arrange a visit to your doctor.

That said, an oxygen level under 90% is serious and can quickly lead to critical conditions. For instance, you may notice an unusual breathing sound. Along with a heavier voice, your skin becomes duskier. And your decision-making is greatly impacted due to greater confusion and decreased level of consciousness. 

How to measure a baby’s oxygen level at home?

While adults need to keep track of their blood saturation level in case they observe any abnormality, things can get serious in the case of infants and children. Since babies cannot tell what they’re experiencing, parents need to keep an eye on them.

The normal saturation level for babies is also 95% to 100%. You need to keep a check on whether your child is getting enough oxygen or not. The most common sign of low oxygen levels can be a change in breathing rate or an increased heart rate. You may also notice a change in skin color. They may be sweating profusely or wheezing uncontrollably. Additionally, you may find your child being more fussy than usual. 

But there’s no need to panic and rush to the hospital to get your baby’s oxygen levels checked. You can do it at your home. The device you need for this is an oximeter.

What oximeter do I use for my child?

You can use an adult oximeter for your child of 10 years or older as long as their finger reaches the end of the probe. Otherwise, you will get an inaccurate reading.

It would be excellent if you used a child’s oximeter for anyone aged 9 years or younger. This oximeter can either clip onto the finger with a child-sized clip or one that wraps around the finger with tape.

What are the FDA-approved oximeters at amazon?

Fingertip Pulse Oximeter

You can easily get pulse oximeters from a nearby pharmacy or order them from Amazon. But before you purchase an oximeter, make sure it is an FDA-approved medical-grade pulse oximeter. 

Take a look at the following medical-grade pulse oximeters that are worth every penny:

Zacurate Pro Series 500DL Fingertip Pulse Oximeter

Zacurate Pro Series 500DL is a best seller in Athletic & Aviation Oximeters. It is a good blood oxygen saturation monitor. The brand claims to accurately determine your SPO2 and PR BPM in just 10 seconds and display it on a large digital LED display.

The finger chamber of the oximeter has a smart spring system that accommodates a wide range of finger sizes. It works best for ages 12 and above. The oximeter comes with a load of accessories. It includes:

  • 2x AAA batteries
  • a silicon cover to protect the oximeter from dirt and physical damage
  • And a LANYARD for convenience.

The Zacuate Pro Series 500DL Oximeter also comes with:

  • 40 hours of battery life
  • 12-month warranty
  • and USA-based technical phone support.

You can get it in a Royal Black color from Amazon.

NamePro Series 500DL
Accuracy deviation under lab conditions+/- 2%
Battery Life40 Hours
BrandZacurate
Number of Batteries2 AAA batteries are required. (included)
Recommended Finger SizeAdult

Pros

  • It’s a great, cheap device.
  • We like the silicone cover.
  • It’s maybe the most sold option on the market.

Cons

  • It doesn’t connect to an app.
  • It sometimes takes a bit long to get measurements.
  • It doesn’t have the feel of more expensive options.
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Zacurate Pro Series 500DL
208,762 Reviews
Zacurate Pro Series 500DL
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Santamedical Fingertip Pulse Oximeter

Santamedical Fingertip Pulse Oximeter is Amazon’s choice for Fingertip pulse oximeters. It is clinically tested and proven to give consistent results. Within 8 to 10 seconds, it displays your blood SPO2 and PR BPM on a large digital red LED display.

This oximeter is suitable for all ages and finger sizes, designed with latex-free silicon material. It is lightweight and easy to carry in your home or outdoors. It is ideal for use during sports activities like running, biking, hiking, etc.

With a 30 hours battery life, the oximeter comes with 2x AAA batteries. It also includes:

  • a case to protect the oximeter
  • a neck/wrist cord
  • a user manual
  • and a no-hassle 1-year manufacturer warranty.

You can purchase this oximeter in either white or grey colors.

NameSantamedical
Are Batteries IncludedYes
FeaturesSuitable for all ages

Pros

  • We like the inclusion of the lanyard to avoid losing it.
  • It’s still a good cheap unit.
  • It easy to use and read.
  • Shipping was fast.

Cons

  • It does not come with app access.
  • Its battery life is less than that of other units that, usually last 40 hours.
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Santamedical Dual Color OLED Pulse Oximeter
29,659 Reviews
Santamedical Dual Color OLED Pulse Oximeter
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Clinical Guard CMS-50DL Fingertip Pulse Oximeter

Clinical Guard CMS-50DL is also a good oximeter. The brand claims to give accurate and reliable SPO2 readings in less than 8 seconds. It is the best fit for aviators and sports enthusiasts as it is easy to carry around.

It also has 2x AAA batteries, a protection case, and a Lanyard. The manufacturers also offer a 12-month ironclad warranty. You can get it in white/blue color.

Pros

  • Its price is very appealing.
  • It comes with a lanyard that we like.
  • We like seeing that the manufacturer backs the product with an extensive warranty.
  • It feels sturdy.

Cons

  • The materials feel cheap.
  • It doesn’t include app access.
ClinicalGuard CMS-50DL
17,547 Reviews
ClinicalGuard CMS-50DL
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AccuMed CMS-50D1 Fingertip Pulse Oximeter

AccuMed CMS-50D1 Fingertip Pulse Oximeter is Amazon’s Choice for Oximeter FDA-approved. It reliably measures SPO2 and PR BPM levels in a stationary position for 8 to 10 seconds. The readings are displayed on a rotating, crystal-clear LED display.

It only weighs 50 grams, so it can easily be carried around during a sporty adventure. The oximeter is an all-rounder as it fits all finger sizes from kids above 4 years old to adults.

With 40 hours of battery life, the AccuMed CMS-50D1 comes with a protective case and a Lanyard. You can get it in white color from Amazon.

Pros

  • The whole experience feels more thought out.
  • It feels more reliable than other products.
  • It’s worth the extra money.

Cons

  • It has a higher price tag than the previous products.
AccuMed 
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Which finger should you use for the pulse oximeter?

Now, you have an oximeter in your hands. But what finger should you use to check your oxygen saturation? Most health technicians will place the oximeter on your index finger when you go to a hospital. It gives satisfactory results.

But a study of 37 volunteers about oximetric readings found that the oximeter gives the highest reading on the third finger of your dominant hand. There was also a close second from the dominant thumb. So, if your dominant hand is the right one, use the oximeter on your right middle finger. If you are left-handed, use the oximeter on your left middle finger.

However, you can use the index finger, and it will give readings just fine. There is just a minor difference between the readings of different fingers. In the end, the choice is yours.

What is the low oxygen level?

The normal oxygen level lies between 95% to 100%. If your oximeter reading falls within this range, everything is fine. If your reading falls between 90% to 94%, you might need to see a physician, but your condition isn’t critical.

If your reading falls below 90%, your condition is pathological and you need a comprehensive evaluation from a doctor. But if your saturation level is below 75%, you must seek emergency medical attention immediately. You may also need oxygen therapy. So, any oxygen level below 90% is considered low and requires your attention.

How does an oximeter work?

Now that you’ve decided to check your oxygen level using an oximeter. Let’s go through a few steps you can follow to get an accurate reading. An oximeter is very easy to use. To get a reading, follow the steps below:

  1. Remove any nail polish or false nails if you’re wearing any.
  2. Warm your hands.
  3. Make sure you rest for at least 5 minutes before taking the reading.
  4. Rest your hand on your chest right above your heart and hold it still.
  5. Switch the oximeter On and place it on your finger. You can use it on the middle or index finger of either hand. But most preferably, put it on the finger of your dominant hand.
  6. The reading of the oximeter takes some time to get steady. So, keep the oximeter in place for at least 1 minute.
  7. Record the highest reading when the reading has been steady for 5 seconds.
  8. Make sure you identify SPO2 and PR BPM readings carefully.

There you have it. Your first pulse oximeter reading. The best practice is to take the oximeter reading 3 times a day and keep a record of it in a diary.

Are oximeters accurate?

Pulse oximeters are very useful and convenient tools to measure your blood oxygen levels and pulse rate. But they are not 100% accurate. FDA-approved oximeters are more precise than over-the-counter (OTC) ones. The oximeters may not give an accurate reading if you have darker skin.

The prescription or FDA-approved oximeters have an accuracy rate of 4% or below the reading. It means if the oximeter shows a reading of 90%, it might actually be as high as 94% or as low as 86%. So, instead of relying solely on oximeter readings, you should also keep track of your symptoms.

I have an Oxygen level of 98%, but I am short of breath.

It is quite possible that you have a 98% oxygen saturation level but still feels breathless. In this case, your blood oxygen level falls within the normal range. So, what is happening here?

The blood oxygen saturation and shortness of breath are not equal. Our breathing is multifactorial. It means many factors other than our oxygen level affect our breathing patterns. It may include things like anxiety, medications, cardiovascular health, emotional state, level of condition (or deconditioning), and many others.

You can also experience shortness of breath if some environmental factors trigger your adrenaline response. Many allergens can also attack your respiratory system. In either case, you can feel suffocated even with high blood oxygen.

Shortness of breath does not mean that you are Hypoxic. Hypoxia refers to low levels of blood oxygen. In other words, you can be extremely short of breath but still have normal oxygen levels. Conversely, you can have extremely low oxygen levels but not have any disproportion in your breathing pattern.

What to do when I am short of breath and have normal oxygen saturation?

Oxygen therapy cannot be a solution in such cases where you are feeling dyspnea, mostly referred to as shortness of breath. Dr. Noah Greenspan, a cardiovascular and pulmonary specialist, describes a technique called “Recovery from Shortness of Breath” in his book Ultimate Pulmonary Wellness. You can use this technique to recover from this non-oxygen saturation-related shortness of breath. Here is what you need to do;

  • Stop what you are doing.
  • Talk to yourself, reminding yourself that you know what to do.
  • Assume the recovery position. The positions might include various variations of bending over or leaning forward and resting your arms on your thighs or a stationary wall or object.
  • Begin Controlled Breathing Techniques (CBT). These include diaphragmatic and pursed-lip breathing.
  • After you have caught your breath, reassess the situation and continue what you were doing if you can. You can do that using CBT and modifying the activity.