What is an oximeter? How do I use an oximeter? How do I interpret the numbers on the oximeter?

The pulse oximeter is a device that measures the oxygen saturation of the blood. It is simply the quantity of oxygen that circulates through the blood.

It is important to know that the blood is enriched with oxygen in the lungs thanks to hemoglobin (a protein found in red blood cells). 

Hemoglobin captures oxygen and distributes it to the various cells of our body to ensure their proper functioning.

The oximeter has a transmitter and a receiver.


The transmitter sends out a red and infrared light, which of course has no effect on our health. The light passes through the fingertip and the receiver receives the rest of the light after it has been absorbed by the blood.

Hemoglobin has the ability to absorb the light sent by the oximeter depending on its oxygen content. The richer the hemoglobin is in oxygen, the more it absorbs the light from the device.

Thanks to these different measurements, the oximeter displays the oxygen saturation level of the blood.

The oximeter is often used in patients suffering from respiratory diseases such as asthma, COPD, pulmonary emphysema, covid, ..., but also in people who are affected by anemia.

The blood oxygen saturation level of a healthy adult is between 100% and 95%.

When this rate is below 95%, it is a respiratory failure, if it is below 90%, the person is in respiratory distress, it is a vital emergency, his life is in danger.


The oximeter is usually placed on the fingertip (index, middle or ring finger). Some models also allow it to be placed on the toe, the wings of the nose or the ear.

Finally, the oximeter also measures the heart rate (number of heartbeats per minute) which is a good indicator for evaluating heart function.

Dr Noura Marrai (Doctor of Pharmacy, YouTuber Health, creator of the health well-being Pharmaquiz application),

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