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Covid-19: Demand for 'affordable' pulse oximeters surges in UAE


Dubai - Affordability drives surge in demand of pulse oximeters

By Nandini Sircar

Published: Sat 23 Jan 2021, 7:01 PM

People seem to be buying Covid-19 oximeters as the device becomes increasingly affordable in the UAE. Parallely, knowing how one’s lungs are doing seem to be helping calm a lot of nerves.

Advice found on social media is gaining traction, turning some towards the use of a pulse oximeter to monitor their oxygen levels at home.

A normal oxygen level in the blood is between 95 and 100 per cent. But this device, that is typically found in a doctor’s clinic, is now finding its way in patients’ homes.

Jose Sreedharan, chief operations officer - Aster Retail, Aster DM Healthcare, said: “The price of the oximeter has come down of late. It used to be in the range of Dh200 plus, which has now dropped to Dh29 and onwards. Over the past eight to nine months, people have also started understanding the connection between breathing difficulties and Covid-19 breathlessness and how it relates to oxygen concentration of one’s blood. So when the device became available in the market at an affordable price people started buying it more.”

Although pulse oximeters are commercially available, they come at many price points and the quality can vastly vary.

He added: “Pulse oximeters are clip-on devices that measure oxygen saturation. In the last three weeks specifically, the prices have come down visibly.”

However, doctors in the country do not promote it as they understand it can only be indicative, that allows people to seek medical help should oxygen levels in their blood drop too low.

“So I won’t say it’s because of Covid-19 but I would say it’s become an affordable consumer product. It is like the face mask, which was priced higher initially but then the prices came down. It is only in the last three weeks that the prices of the oximeter have dipped.

Manufacturers felt that if it’s made affordable, more people would want to buy it and that’s what’s happened. But there are different models available that are still above Dh200," added Sreedharan.

In the UAE, it’s mostly being sold through online shops rather than the in-store pharmacies.

“First, the online prices came down and now the pharmacies have also lowered their prices. I would advise people to buy one and keep it when it's affordable but it’s not a special monitor that you need to keep for regular checks. It can be used even if you have a normal cold and flu which affects your chest or if one has congestion Also, it's good for people who suffer from other respiratory conditions like asthma" explained Sreedharan.

However, in the UK, they are being rolled out for high-risk Covid patients and the doctor leading the scheme thinks everyone should consider buying one.

Dr Matt Inada-kim, a consultant in acute medicine at Hampshire Hospitals, became the national clinical leader of the Covid Oximetry at Home project.

“With Covid, we were admitting patients with oxygen levels in the 70s or low or middle 80s,” said Dr Inada-Kim.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Inside Health: “The point of this whole strategy is to try to get in early to prevent people getting that sick, by admitting patients at a more salvageable point in their illness.”

While the situation remains much under control in the UAE, medics here push for the inoculation instead.

Dr Mohamed Rafique, medical director & specialist pulmonology, Prime Hospital, pointed out: “Just as a BP monitor, people can have an oximeter at home as well. My observation is as the awareness surrounding Covid-19 is much higher now, so many people are already in possession of such devices. However, more than anything else, getting oneself vaccinated is really the way forward for communities.”


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