How to use your peak flow meter
A peak flow meter is a small device that helps you check how well your asthma is controlled. Peak flow meters are most helpful if you have moderate to severe persistent asthma.
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How to Measure Peak Flow
Measuring your peak flow can tell you and your health care provider how well you blow air out of your lungs. If your airways are narrowed and blocked due to asthma, your peak flow values drop.
You can check your peak flow at home. Here are the basic steps:
Many children under age 5 cannot use a peak flow meter very well. But some are able to. Start using peak flow meters before age 5 to get your child used to them.
Find Your Personal Best
To find your personal best peak flow number, take your peak flow each day for 2 to 3 weeks. Your asthma should be under control during this time. To find your personal best, take your peak flow as close to the following times of day as you can:
These times for taking your peak flow are only for finding your personal best.
Write down the number you get for each peak flow reading. The highest peak flow number you had during the 2 to 3 weeks is your personal best.
Ask your provider to help you fill out an asthma action plan. This plan should tell you when to call the provider for help and when to use medicines if your peak flow drops to a certain level.
Your personal best can change over time. Ask your provider when you should check for a new personal best.
Use Your Peak Flow Meter Every Day
Once you know your personal best, make taking your peak flow a habit. Take your peak flow:
Check to see which zone your peak flow number is in. Do what your provider told you to do when you are in that zone. This information should be in your action plan. If you use more than one peak flow meter (such as one at home and another one at school or work), be sure that all of them are the same brand.
Bergstrom J, Kurth M, Hieman BE, et al. Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement website. Health Care Guideline: Diagnosis and Management of Asthma. 11th ed. www.icsi.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Asthma.pdf. Updated December 2016. Accessed January 23, 2020.
Boulet LP, Godbout K. Diagnosis of asthma in adults. In: Burks AW, Holgate ST, O'Hehir RE, et al, eds. Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 51.
Chassay CM. Pulmonary function testing. In: Fowler GC, ed. Pfenninger and Fowler's Procedures for Primary Care. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 81.
National Asthma Education and Prevention Program website. How to use a peak flow meter. How to use a metered-dose inhaler. www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/lung/asthma/asthma_tipsheets.pdf. Updated March 2013. Accessed January 23, 2020.
Viswanathan RK, Busse WW. Management of asthma in adolescents and adults. In: Burks AW, Holgate ST, O'Hehir RE, et al, eds. Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 52.
Review Date: 1/13/2020
Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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