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Peak Flow Meter Measures Lung Capacity for Asthma and Allergy Patients

by Barbara 15. April 2011 06:04

Question about Peak Flow Meters

Q: "My physician suggests I purchase a Peak Flow Meter. I occasionally have asthma attacks. What is a peak flow meter? What does it measure? Which one do you suggest? Thanks. Bill"

Answer: A peak flow meter is a device into which you blow that measures the liters per minute of air that you can expel from your lungs. Peak flow readings are higher when patients are well because airways are open, rather than comstricted as occurs when lungs are congested.  By knowing what someone's best peak flow is helps physician's decide what medications are or are not needed for asthma and other chronic lung diseases. Checking lung capacity with a peak flow meter during an asthma attack gives an indication of the severity of the attack.

I am currently taking allergy shots once more, my third series, my first since ending the second in 1992. Why? I am having more serious problems with grasses, pollens, cats, etc. that keep me from enjoying the indoors and the outdoors. So for at least the next four years, every time I see my allergist for shots, I will be using a peak flow meter prior to injections. When I was first examined, peak flow readings were taken with an electronic monitor. Now, I use a small portable, manual type unit with replaceable mouthpiece before each injection session. Usually I blow between a 375 and a 420, considered normal for my age, gender and height.

According to, "The peak flow meter works by measuring how fast air comes out of the lungs when you exhale forcefully after inhaling fully. This measure is called a "peak expiratory flow," or "PEF." Keeping track of your PEF, is one way you can know if your symptoms of asthma are in control or worsening."

This is how you use a Peak Flow Meter according to

  1. Stand up or sit up straight.
  2. Make sure the indicator is at the bottom of the meter (zero).
  3. Take a deep breath in, filling the lungs completely.
  4. Place the mouthpiece in your mouth; lightly bite with your teeth and close your lips on it. Be sure your tongue is away from the mouthpiece.
  5. Blast the air out as hard and as fast as possible in a single blow.

"Normal" readings on based upon gender, height and age. The Omron Peak Flow meter gives red, green and yellow readings as well as numbers. Red means you need to use a bronchial dilator immediately. Another option is the Medline Personal Best Peak Flow Meter, 12/Case which will soon be available as an individual unit.

I hope this answers your questions.

Thanks for your questions.



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