InfO2 @ Your Fingertips: Pulse Oximetry at Home

If you are over 50 or have underlying health conditions and you have recently tested positive for COVID-19, your doctor may have explained to you that they will be supporting you to recover at home.

When recovering at home, you will be given a device called a pulse oximeter and a supporting information leaflet. You will be asked to take a number of readings each day and compare them to the guidance on the leaflet which explains what you must do depending on your reading.

If you are feeling unwell with COVID please contact your GP and ask for support for  COVID Oximetry at Home.

A pulse oximeter is a device that is safe and easy to use at home and will allow you to take two different readings; blood oxygen levels (Sp02%) and heart beat speed (Pulse rate).

Before using the device;

Step 1: Remove any nail varnish or false nails and warm your hands if cold.
Step 2: Rest for at least five minutes before taking your reading.
Step 3: Keep your fingers in a relaxed position. Rest your hand on your chest at heart level.

Using the device;

Step 4: Insert the tip of your middle or index finger into the pulse oximeter so that the fingertip is pressed against the end and the nail is covered by the device. Check it’s on.

*If you do not get a reading within 30 seconds or so, try a different finger*.

Step 5: The reading takes time to steady. Keep the pulse oximeter in place for at least a minute to allow this.
Step 6: Take the reading after a minute or so. If the reading continues to go up and down and won’t stabilise, just take a middle reading.
Step 7: Add the reading to your COVID diary.

Watch this video to learn how to use the device.  It is also available in Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu and Polish

This video is also available in a number of languages: Health and Care Video Library – Breathing Problems (

During your induction phone call with the clinical team you will be told how often you should take you readings each day. This is likely to be up to two times per day, but you can take extra readings if you feel a change in your health.

The clinical team will use your COVID diary to monitor your readings and health, and will let you know how often they will contact you during your induction phone call.

Patients with confirmed or possible COVID-19 may like to consider keeping a COVID-19 diary to support self-monitoring using pulse oximetry. This suggested content may be helpful. Translated versions of the COVID-19 diary are available in Arabic, Bengali, Gujarati, Polish, Punjabi and Urdu

Monitoring oxygen levels at home whilst having COVID-19 – Amy’s story

Amy Smith, from the South West, shares her experience of the Oximetry @home service:

There is currently no specific treatment for COVID-19.  Although you may feel unwell with COVID-19, you can often ease the symptoms at home. Common symptoms of the virus are coughing, high temperature and breathlessness. For advice on how to manage these symptoms please visit the NHS website.

If you start to feel worse or notice a change in your readings please follow the advice below;

No action needed if you have any following signs/symptoms or readings:

  • Gradual improvement
  • Fully mobile, able to manage stairs, not confused
  • Normal eating and drinking
  • Oxygen level (measured with the pulse oximeter) is consistently at or above 95%
  • Pulse Range 50-90 beats per minute.

Phone your GP or 111 for urgent medical attention: If you have any of the following signs/symptoms or readings:

  • Getting more unwell
  • Unable to speak in full sentences due to breathlessness
  • Too weak to get out of bed
  • Oxygen level (measured with the pulse oximeter) is 93-94%
  • Pulse persistently over 90 beats per minute at rest
  • Not eating and drinking
  • Fever not responding to cooling down and paracetamol.

Call 999 for Urgent Assessment: If you have any of the following signs/ symptoms or readings:

  • Your health is rapidly worsening over a period of hours
  • Short of breath sitting quietly
  • Your oxygen level is consistently at or less than 92%; meaning more than once within an hour
  • Blue lips or face
  • Pulse persistently over 100 beats per minute at rest after repeat testing
  • Severe or sudden onset of chest pain
  • Cold, clammy or mottled skin.

If you have recently tested positive for COVID-19, your doctor will have assessed your need of extra supported monitoring at home by the COVID Virtual Ward team.

If your GP feels that you need to be cared for by the COVID Virtual Ward team, they will contact you to explain this and ask for your permission to refer you to the COVID Virtual Ward team.

As a patient on the virtual ward you will be asked to use a device called a pulse oximeter to take a number of readings each day and submit them from your home to the virtual ward team. The virtual ward team will look at your readings remotely to monitor you and will make sure if any problems that they are dealt with as soon as possible. The team will also agree with you how they will keep in touch with you on your induction phone call.

An information leaflet about the COVID Virtual Ward is available for you to read here.

How Gloucestershire’s COVID Virtual Ward can help

Accessing Food & prescription medication:

  • If you need help with getting food shopping and prescription medication whilst self-isolating the NHS Volunteer Responders can link you up with someone in Gloucestershire who can collect and deliver your grocery shopping and medication. Please sign up support if needed through the NHS Responders website or call 0808 196 3646. This service is open 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week.
  • Gloucestershire Community Help Hub can help to make sure you have enough food and other general supplies to cover a few days, and collect and deliver your prescribed medication whilst you self-isolate. Please contact them through their website or telephone 01452 583519. Their lines are open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.

Please contact your local pharmacy as they may have a medication delivery service that can deliver your medication to you at home.

Wellbeing support:

  • The NHS Volunteer Responders service also has Check In and Chat Volunteers available for regular talks over the phone, so you can have a chat with a friendly voice. Please sign up support if needed via the NHS Responders website – or call 0808 196 3646. This service is open 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week.