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Make peak flow a habit

Asthma - make peak flow a habit; Reactive airway disease - peak flow; Bronchial asthma - peak flow

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Checking your peak flow is one of the best ways to control your asthma and to keep it from getting worse.

Asthma attacks do not usually come on without warning. Most times, they build slowly. Checking your peak flow can tell you if an attack is coming, sometimes before you have any symptoms.

What is Peak Flow?

Peak flow can tell you 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 with a small, plastic meter. Some meters have tabs on the side that you can adjust to match your action plan zones (green, yellow, red). If your meter does not have these, you can mark them with colored tape or a marker.

Write Down Your Peak Flow Numbers

Write down your peak flow scores (numbers) on a chart or diary. Many brands of peak flow meters come with charts. Make a copy of your chart to bring with you when you see your health care provider.

Next to your peak flow number also write:

  1. Any signs or symptoms you felt.
  2. Steps you took if you had symptoms or your peak flow dropped.
  3. Changes in your asthma drugs.
  4. Any asthma triggers you were exposed to.

Use Your Peak Flow Meter Every Day

Once you know your personal best, take your peak flow at:

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.

Do your peak flow 3 times and record the best value every time you check it.

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.

Related Information

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Asthma
Asthma in children
Asthma and allergy resources
Asthma - child - discharge
Asthma - control drugs
Asthma - quick-relief drugs
Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction
Exercising and asthma at school
How to use your peak flow meter
Signs of an asthma attack
Stay away from asthma triggers
How to use a nebulizer
Asthma and school
How to use an inhaler - no spacer
How to use an inhaler - with spacer
Asthma in adults - what to ask the doctor
Asthma in children - what to ask your doctor

References

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 28, 2020.

Kercsmar CM, Mcdowell KM. Wheezing in older children: asthma. In: Wilmott RW, Deterding R, Li A, et al, eds. Kendig's Disorders of the Respiratory Tract in Children. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 45.

Miller A, Nagler J. Devices for assessing oxygenation and ventilation. In: Roberts JR, Custalow CB, Thomsen TW, eds. Roberts and Hedges' Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine and Acute Care. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 2.

National Asthma Education and Prevention Program website. How to use a peak flow meter. www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/lung/asthma/asthma_tipsheets.pdf. Updated March 2013. Accessed January 28, 2020.

Vishwanathan 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.

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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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