A pulse oximeter is an easy-to-use tool for checking your blood oxygen saturation and pulse rate. It consists of a sensor, which the doctor usually holds against a fingertip, and an attached monitor. Using it on an infant or child has many advantages over traditional finger pricking methods that can be painful or difficult to interpret. The device is light and requires no training to use so your health care team can quickly get readings and make adjustments. However, using the pulse oximeter on kids does require a certain level of expertise.
1. Wear the Device Properly
You need to wear the pulse oximeter correctly to get an accurate reading. The sensor should be held tight against the skin and angled toward a large blood vessel in the finger. The sensor may also be placed on other body areas, such as the foot or palm, if more convenient for the child. One benefit of using a sensor on a site other than a fingertip is seeing both hands at once when reading your child’s oxygen levels.
2. Try Alternative Spots
If you cannot find the right spot on your child’s finger, try attaching the pulse oximeter to the side of his toe. If that doesn’t work, try it on his ear lobe. However, do not just attach it anywhere. The sensor has a particular area indicated by a dotted line on the monitor. Once you find this area, you will know precisely how far away from this area is to attach the sensor for an accurate reading.
3. Learn to Read the Graphs
There are two types of graphs you will receive from the pulse oximeter. One is a graph that shows how oxygen levels change as time goes on. The other, more common in children, is a graph showing changes within one breath. To interpret these graphs correctly, you will need to know a few things:
a) The oxygen saturation level should be between 85% and 99%. It will help determines if there is an issue with their oxygen levels.
b) The x-axis shows the time in seconds.
c) The y axis shows the oxygen saturation level.
d) The calibration lines indicate where the oxygen saturation levels are accurately represented.
These lines will be thinner at the top of the graph and become thicker as oxygen levels decrease. The sensors can’t get a good reading in low oxygenated areas. Therefore, you should only see these lines in the high enough regions to get a good lesson.
4. Ensure the Sensor is Clean
It’s essential to ensure that the area you are using for your pulse oximeter has a clean surface. A dirty surface can cause inaccurate readings. Ensure that the sensor is not held on your child’s skin with too much pressure or another object. Some pediatricians use a sheet of absorbent paper under the sensor to help keep it extra clean and stay in place better.
While using a pulse oximeter on children may seem daunting, you can get an accurate reading quickly and find out what is causing your child’s symptoms. If you follow these tips regularly, you will be able to make sure your child’s oxygen levels are high enough to prevent health problems. Visit a pediatrician if the readings are low in the first place, especially if they have been common for an extended period.