What Is an Infant Pulse Oximeter?

ProTrainings What Is an Infant Pulse Oximeter?

There is no bigger priority to new parents than making sure their child has steady breathing and a regular heartbeat. But when there’s a concern that everything isn’t working as it should, tools like infant pulse oximeters exist to help ensure safety. 

An infant pulse oximeter is a non-invasive tool that is used to measure the amount of oxygen in a baby’s bloodstream. This is often referred to as a “pulse ox” test and is a very common vital sign taken when a person of any age interacts with a medical professional. A pulse ox test helps take note of any irregularities in the pulse and can indicate ineffective respiration occurring.

Read on to find out when an infant pulse oximeter is used, how to use it, and where these helpful tools can be purchased.

When Is an Infant Pulse Oximeter Needed?

You might already be familiar with having your pulse ox taken at the doctor’s office. For adults, a clip-style measuring device is placed across the tip of a finger. This clip usually contains a red-colored light inside that helps measure the oxygen in the bloodstream from outside the body.

Infant pulse oximeters are used in the same routine situations for pediatric office visits, however, they can also be prescribed for use when there is a concern that an infant has an irregular number of heartbeats per minute or needs to be watched for abnormally low oxygen rates.

This is commonly seen in premature babies as their body’s systems are not yet fully developed or functioning at capacity. A doctor may require a newborn who has experienced breathing difficulties to wear an infant pulse oximeter for anywhere from several days to a few months.

These devices will sound an alarm if they measure heart rates or oxygen levels that are outside of their allowed ranges.

How Do I Use an Infant Pulse Ox?

There are two distinct types of infant pulse oximeters on the market today. The first is a clip-on device that is handheld and fits over an infant’s toe or finger. Special care must be given to ensure the infant’s extremities are the correct size for the machine selected, otherwise the pulse oximeter’s readings may be incorrect or inconsistent.

ProTrainings What Is an Infant Pulse Oximeter?

The other popular type of machine uses a bandage-style measuring attachment that can be wrapped around a child’s hand or foot. These will usually contain a visible red bulb that will shine a light to be measured through the child’s hand or foot. 

This kind of infant pulse oximeter is intended for prolonged use of anywhere from an hour to several days, although care should be taken to rotate the attachment to different hands or feet to avoid sores developing on an infant’s delicate skin.

Which Type of Infant Pulse Oximeter Is Easier to Use?

While each type has its pros and cons, the monitoring needs of the child should dictate the style of device purchased. 

While many parents may view the long-term use of the bandage-style pulse oximeter to be more effective and give more of a watchful eye, these machines have a learning curve in finding ways to keep a squirming baby from wriggling out of the bandage. Due to the long-wear nature of this type, it can encounter read errors and sound an alarm if not properly adjusted, possibly causing unnecessary concern.

The handheld infant pulse oximeters can give an ideal snapshot of an infant’s pulse rate and oxygen rate at a given time. However, for infants who may require more frequent or long-term monitoring for treatments such as being given oxygen, this snapshot style of data may not be extensive enough to assist in making treatment decisions. 

As with all medical decisions, selecting the correct tool for the job at hand is crucial, so we at ProTrainings encourage you to write out your questions and share them with your treatment team in order to make the best decision for your infant. 

Where Can I Purchase an Infant Pulse Oximeter?

Most big-box retailers carry some form of infant pulse oximeter on the shelves that can be bought without a prescription. Additionally, online retailers across the web have varied brands and price points for different types of infant pulse oximeters. 

While these prices are usually quite affordable compared to other durable medical equipment, insurance companies can often help with the costs of these devices. You may also be able to have your insurance company connect you with a medical supply retailer who can ensure you have the properly sized bandages for your child’s size and machine.

When making decisions concerning the health and safety of children, it’s crucial to consider all the unique variables that come along with smaller bodies. This is especially true when it comes to infant pulse oximeter use. While your child’s doctor will likely work with you to identify the proper type of machine needed, background knowledge is a benefit.
The intended use and length of use, along with the size of the infant’s extremities can dictate which tool is the proper one for the job. For even more helpful information and tips, follow us on LinkedIn.