Pulse oximeter sales skyrocket: this £30 Covid monitoring gadget could save your life

Pulse oximeters flag up low blood oxygen levels, and have been flying off the shelves this lockdown

Pulse oximeters are shaping up to be the new hero of lockdown, with sales increasing tenfold, according to new stats. 

These compact devices clip on the end your finger and are used to test oxygen levels in your blood. Some covid-19 sufferers have low blood-oxygen levels but do not experience obvious symptoms such as breathlessness. This often means they don't seek medical attention, which can lead to much more serious deterioration further down the line (read more about 'silent hypoxia' in this BMJ article). The NHS recommends  pulse oximeters as a simple way to monitor oxygen saturation while isolating at home.

So while they won't help prevent the spread of the virus (you'll need to stay in and invest in some of the best face masks for that), a pulse oximeter can help you gauge if you need to hospital treatment.

Well Pharmacy – the country's largest chain of independent chemists – has reported record sales of oximeters, as customers seek ways to monitor their heath from home. Sales have increased over 2300%, compared to the past 6 months' sales in 2021/2020 and have already exceeded the cumulative sales across the last six months of 2020.

Pulse oximeter

(Image credit: Marsden / Well Pharmacy)

"These are great little devices that can give early warning that your breathing is not right and you need to seek expert help," says Wendy Lee from Well Pharmacy. "They have just been flying out the door in the past few weeks and we have been re-ordering stock as fast as we can."

The oximeters you can buy from a pharmacy are just like those a nurse or doctor would use in hospital, and require no specialist knowledge to use; you just clip one to your fingertip. And they cost around £30. 

Ruth Hamilton

Ruth is a lifestyle journalist specialising in sleep and wellbeing. She has tested more mattresses than her small flat can handle and will talk at length about them to anyone who shows even a passing interest, and has had to implement a one-in-one-out pillow policy for fear of getting smothered in the night. As well as following all the industry trends and advancements in the mattress and bedding world, she regularly speaks to certified experts to delve into the science behind a great night's sleep, and offer you advice to help you get there. She's currently Sleep Editor on Tom's Guide and TechRadar, and prior to that ran the Outdoors and Wellness channels on T3 (now covered by Matt Kollat and Beth Girdler-Maslen respectively).