Pulse oximeters are very effective digital tools that measure oxygen saturation in the blood – a strong predictor of severe illness and pneumonia death – along with heart rate. They give health workers critical patient information to detect children who are severely ill and are therefore a gateway to safe and effective oxygen use. But despite their lifesaving potential, these simple tools are not widely available in health care facilities in low-resource settings.
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There are promising signs that new technologies like lung ultrasound will transform the diagnosis of pneumonia in low-resource settings. Together with pulse oximetry it dramatically improves the identification of the children at greatest risk of death from pneumonia.