An asthma peak flow refers to a how fast a person suffering from asthma can blow air out of their lungs. Asthma is a disease of the respiratory system. What happens is that the air passageways become inflamed. Mucus is secreted in the passageways and the vessels constrict. This process occurs because of some irritant (allergen) such as smoke has entered the body through the nose or mouth. The immune system will then take action. The immune system will sometimes mistake innocuous substances as harmful to the body and it will defend itself by causing the inflammation in the airways. The problem is that by doing this, the asthma sufferer cannot breathe properly. They may wheeze, cough and have a hard time breathing.
The causes of asthma are not well known at this time, however what is known is that asthma sufferers have difficulty exhaling. The air from the lungs is trapped in the constricted and inflamed airways and this causes the shortness of breath and wheezing.
Asthma suffers learn ways of monitoring their triggers. Triggers are the sources from which the asthma attacks will kick in. There are several ways to monitor asthma and the field of asthma control has come a long way in a relatively short period of time. It is very important for an asthma sufferer to understand how asthmatic breathing can actually change during different times of the day. Knowing when your asthma is at its worst will help you to monitor you asthma and be prepared to avoid asthma attacks by taking your medication and other necessary interventions.
In order to monitor the peak flow of your breathing you would need a peak flow meter.
How to use a peak flow meter
In order to get the fastest rate in which you can breathe out air you must first take in a deep breath. The intent of using this meter is to see just how fast you can let out the air in which you just inhaled. If your vessels are inflamed and you are in what is called bronchoconstriction, meaning asthma is present; your peak flow readings will not register very high. When you are monitoring your peak flow you will take three consecutive readings and you will record your best reading. You can also test the meter reading before taking your asthma medication and then directly afterwards to see how well the medication is serving you. A consistently high peak flow reading is very reassuring that your asthma is under control.
The peak flow meter reading is measured twice daily just to make sure every thing remains under control. Asthma sufferers will record their readings in a diary or journal. By recording readings the asthmatic individuals can see at a glance when their symptoms would most likely occur and it will also be an indication of whether or not the asthma symptoms are improving or worsening over time. Peak flow measurements are contingent upon age, sex and a person’s height. Patients would need to make sure their the peak flow does not go too low otherwise they would need to refer to the asthma action plan.
You will need to show the recordings to you asthma specialist at each visit in order to see if you needed to continue, change your medication, and if you need to change your Asthma Action Plan.
There are two basic types of Peak Flow Meters:
- Mechanical Peak Flow Meter- The mechanical peak flow meter has three main zones: Green means you are doing well and should continue with your asthma medication. Yellow means there is a possibility your asthma may be getting worse. Red is an alarm. It means you have to go and get medical attention immediately.
- Digital Peak Flow Meter- This machine will give you a number readout and you will be able to judge the condition of your asthma by how high or low these number values are.
When you are first given the peak flow meter to use as a tool to monitor your asthma make sure your health care provider has thoroughly explained how to use it. Do not leave the doctor’s office or pharmacy until you fully understand.