A peak-flow meter is a small, hand-held device that measures the force of air that your breath blows out. If you have asthma, the meter can tell an important story and can be especially important for Blacks who are prone to more severe cases of asthma. A strong, hard breath means your asthma is under control. But if a small, weak breath is all you can muster, asthma may be squeezing your airways.
How do you use a peak-flow meter?
Peak-flow meters are simple to use. Even children as young as three can quickly master them. Each meter has a marker that moves along a numbered scale. (The scale measures the force of your breath in liters per minute.) Move the marker to zero. Then stand up straight, take a deep breath, clamp your lips tightly around the mouthpiece, and blow through your mouth as hard as you can. You want a single, short blast of air, not a long, drawn-out breath. Picture yourself knocking down a house, not cooling off your soup.
After you’ve huffed and puffed, write down the reading from the scale. Then repeat the whole process two more times.
If you’ve done it correctly, all three readings should be fairly similar. Ignore the two lowest numbers and record the highest number. This is your “peak flow.”
Who needs a peak-flow meter?
Peak-flow meters can be useful if you have moderate to severe asthma and need to get a better grip on your disease. The meter helps you track your progress, adjust your medications, and even stop attacks before they happen.
For instance, if the readings are high day after day, you may be able to cut back on your medications, according to your doctor’s instructions.
But if the meter shows you’re having trouble, you may need extra treatments to manage your disease. A sudden, steep drop may signal an oncoming attack. With the advance warning, you can prevent the attack by inhaling a “quick-relief” medication that opens the airways.
But not every person with asthma needs a peak-flow meter. If your disease is already well-controlled and you rarely have attacks,