What Is A Peak Flow Meter?

Spirometry is a type of lung function test that doctors use to measure a patient’s lung function. This test is commonly used to track the decrease in lung function of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Many doctors have their COPD patients do a spirometry test at least once a year

A peak flow meter is often discussed in connection with spirometry tests. This is a handheld device that allows you to conduct your own spirometry tests at home.

Patients blow into a mouthpiece at one end of the device, and the peak flow meter measures the force of the air flowing out of your lungs in liters per minute. 

Why Is A Peak Flow Meter Useful For COPD Patients? 

When it comes to tracking the progress of COPD, the more information your doctor has, the better. Clinical spirometry tests can help increase the amount of lung function information available to your pulmonologist, but using a peak flow meter at home can also be helpful.

In fact, using this device allows you to track day-to-day changes in your breathing in ways clinical spirometry tests typically can’t. 

Daily peak flow meter usage can also offer benefits like: 

  • Showing how well your COPD treatment is working
  • Warning you of worsenings in your COPD symptoms
  • Helping to reduce hospital and doctor visits

Basic Steps for Using a Peak Flow Meter at Home

There are several types of peak flow meters available from your local pharmacy or online retailer. However, they all work in essentially the same way, You blow hard into a mouthpiece and record the resulting reading.

For most peak flow meters, using them involves several general steps: 

  1. Clean the device — The human mouth contains a multitude of bacteria. Cleaning your peak flow meter before use helps get rid of them, and it can also ensure that you get the most accurate reading possible. 
  2. Connect the mouthpiece — Many peak flow meters have removable mouthpieces. Make sure your mouthpiece is connected to the device before you attempt to use it.
  3. Calibrate the meter — Before using the device, make sure that you move the marker to the bottom of the scale. 
  4. Take a deep breath in — The goal is to completely fill your lungs. If you don’t, the readings you get could be worryingly low. 
  5. Blow into the device — Place your lips firmly around the mouthpiece, and then blow as hard and fast as you can into the peak flow meter. 
  6. Check the position of the marker — After you’re done blowing out, check the position of the measurement marker. This tells you what your current peak flow rate is.
  7. Repeat the previous steps — To get the best possible information about your lung function, you should repeat the above steps a total of 3 times and record the highest value.