Low peak flow, but airways good? Tryi... - Asthma UK communi...

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Low peak flow, but airways good? Trying to understand this.

soniaackerman profile image

Hey! My asthma has been flared pretty bad for the last three weeks now, and I'm off my feet completely. Starting to improve but it's slow going. My peak flow is still under where it should be. My normal peakflow is 540, at the minute it's 300. But when I'm sounded by the dr, they say airways sound clear and air is good.

I'm just wondering how can this be? How can peakflow be low but airways ok?

Thanks in advance.

3 Replies

I would say, not all doctors are equal! You may need to see a different doctor, if your peak flow continues to be so low.. If it is still bad after the weekend, I would call the asthma UK helpline. If you have trouble breathing or speaking in sentences you need to seek help asap.

In the meantime, do you have a written asthma plan? and if so, have you stepped up your medication or followed your traffic light protocol?



From my limited experience of this (I was only diagnosed last year), absolute values of peak flow seem to be poor indicators of symptoms - comparative figures are better. Even if your peak flow was OK but you had asthma symptoms, then I would have suggested you needed treatment. As your flow is considerably below its normal reading, I would suggest keep taking the medication until it's back to normal for YOU, regardless of any other test result.

Lysistrata profile image
LysistrataCommunity Ambassador

I'm with the others - if one thing is off whether peak flow or symptoms, then pay attention. I used to spend ages wrestling with this one as the focus is so often placed on wheeze etc. Clearly your peak flow is not up to where it should be and as superzob says, it's all relative.

Also, I'm no doctor but it is completely possible to have no wheeze and good air entry but still be struggling. There might be more subtle indicators which not all doctors can pick up (eg one time and one time only, a doctor commented that everything was clear but I had prolonged expiration which is also a sign something is up. I bet I have that more often but no one notices or comments!) A friend who knows much more than I do about this told me that lung physics means there are several ways to have airway narrowing which can't be detected by listening to someone's chest, but often GPs are going for the wheeze and maybe for air entry. I've been treated for attacks in hospital with a 'clear' chest, as a good dr looks at the whole picture.

I agree with risabel about calling the helpline, and seeking help if it gets worse. Even if it's just not getting any better when it should be it's worth going back to your dr/nurse and seeing what they can do.

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