Fingertip pulse oximeters are fairly inexpensive, easy to use, and can be a useful tool to determine how well oxygen is being carried in an individuals blood. We just bought one for $25 from Groupon. Oximetry readings can HELP caregivers make decisions about when immediate medical attention is needed. Of course, they can’t make these decisions for us but they provide one more piece of useful information. For example, after some seizures, blood oxygen levels may drop because breathing may be halted, obstructed, or inefficient while seizure activity uses extra oxygen. It may be helpful to take a reading to determine low low oxygen levels have dropped and how quickly they recover. Our boys and girls also have frequent respiratory infections. These can reduce oxygen intake while fevers use up more oxygen. It may be helpful to know whether oxygen levels are depressed as a result. In addition, reading the percent of oxygenation, they typically also measure pulse accurately, which is sometimes difficult.
If you do get an oximeter, discuss it with your child’s doctor. Find out how he or she thinks it might be useful and if there are specific levels to look for. For example, he or she may say if levels drop lower than some specific level, bring him in. It is definitely best to individualize these for your child. In general, however, oximetry readings for healthy individuals range from about 94% to 99%. For individuals with chronic respiratory issues, readings may be more in the 90% to 94%. When readings are persistently below 88% or 90%, oxygen may be ordered. BUT REMEMBER: these are very general guidelines and what is appropriate for you or your child should be determined by a physician who knows the patent well.