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Peak flow meter

Hi. I'm new to this. Is there any way I could increase my peak flow? My personal best is 350. I'm 4'11 and in my early twenties. My doctor gave me a Ventolin inhaler. Will it help to increase my peak flow rate? I need to get it to 450 as part of my work medical

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I wasn't going to reply but I'm puzzled and a little indignant on your behalf that your work wants you to increase your peak flow. It's not like winning bonus points. Are you able to do your job in your current state of health? My peak flow currently (from Drs appt 6 weeks ago) is 120 but I work. Of course it depends what your job is. Peak flow can be improved with a better technique but that's just numbers and no indication of your lung health. Ventolin should be taken for your health, your employer shouldn't be expecting you to take it to manipulate a set of numbers.

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I live in the states and I keep seeing that you guys have 'peak flow meters'. Is that the thingy I had on my screening tests where I had to keep blowing? they also put me in an enclosed tube to do the 'breathing thing'. No one I know over here has ever had anyone give them a 'peak flow meter' to use at home. I was given a ventolin inhaler with a spacer and symbicort at 2 puffs twice a day. I cut back on the symbicort because it made me exhausted and now do 2 puffs at night. there were a few times I had to use the ventolin every four hours, but that's not needed now.

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A peak flow meter is plastic tube with numbers down the side, they are usually grey in colour with a red ‘arrow’ and are portable. You blow into it hard and fast to get your score. In the UK we use this as a guide to see what our asthma is doing/to see how controlled we are when we’re both at home or in hospital (what % are we compared to our best). They show how fast you can breath out after a deep breath in. They are relatively cheap and easy to get hold of (unless you’re in hospital without one as then they play disappearing acts 🤣). This tends to measure your ‘larger’ airways I think.

I think the one you’re describing where you have to blow hard, but keep blowing is a spirometer. This is a bigger machines which results in drawing a graph. We tend to do these when testing for asthma or to measure your FEV1 score (as an inpatient in hospital, at yearly check ups with our asthma nurse if the GP has one, or at regular appts if you have severe asthma). This measures both your large and small airways.

I think that’s it, tho no doubt someone else will know better what they are each for! I find it quite interesting that in the states you don’t use them, as they are almost over-relied in in the UK!

Hope that helps clear things up a bit for you x

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Thanks for info.

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Well EmmaF91 answered that pretty comprehensively. I personally don’t have a peak flow meter at home, i couldn’t see the point of making a chart, it is what it is and the aimed-for numbers are just that, numbers. I think they’re based on average healthy people. When I have a medical appointment the nurse or doctor want my peak flow reading. But, some people do use them at home and that’s great too 👍

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The main reason they encourage people to PF at home is to spot a trend of decline, as we often don’t feel it until we’re bad (if that makes sense). That way we can prepare for/pre-treat an exacerbation before needing hospital. It’s why asthma plans have a peak flow ‘limit’ per zone - usually 75-80% (green/yellow) and 50% (yellow/red) You’re meant to compare to your best, not to the national average.

I agree the ‘average’ chart is pointless, unless you’ve never done one before! I’m stupidly better than my predicted, whilst I know others bests which are a lot worse. I also know a lot of non-asthmatics who can’t achieve their ‘predicted’ so...

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Thanks for explaining 👍 I learn more here than from anywhere else. I’ve had asthma my whole life but no one has ever really explained anything. It does actually make sense when you put it like that because we don’t know how bad we feel until we’re suddenly really bad, I guess because it often just builds up or creeps up. What’s an asthma plan?

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Your welcome. I’ve had to learn a lot though experience or self-study, so if I can make asthma a little bit easier to deal with/understand for just one person I will!

Yes for most (adult) asthmatics asthma attacks start with a slow decline and we only notice when it’s bad so daily monitoring in am and pm (same times every day) does point out a decline to most a lot earlier than we’d consider an issue to be there. Most people record it in a ‘peak flow diary’ where you can ‘graph’ you score to spot a correlation, and also record daily symptoms/ventolin use. You can usually get these from your asthma nurse if you ask for them.

Your personal asthma action plan is basically a set of instructions on what to do if you flare up and when to seek further help. It also usually states your triggers and meds. You can print off your own and either get your GP/asthma nurse to fill it in or fill it in yourself if you know how to (as a severe asthmatic I usually do my own as I’ve done a million 😅)

Here’s a link to the page on the asthma UK page about asthma plans; asthma.org.uk/advice/manage...

And a link to the asthma UK PF diary;

asthma.org.uk/globalassets/...

Hope that helps to explain things x

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Thanks 👍 I’ve just been looking at both of those links. I don’t know that having a chart would help me but I guess it couldn’t hurt. My peak flow is 120 lately and hasn’t been above 130 this year. It was 175 last year then they decided to start changing all my inhalers and that’s when things really deteriorated. I’ve got new inhalers since about 6 weeks ago and I feel a little better and I saw the doctor today who said keep on with what I’m doing now. It would be interesting to see if I can get back to 175.

I hope you’re having a good day today ✨

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Erm... that’s a really strange thing to have on a work medical 🤨 - out of interest what job is it for?

Best peak flows are personal and depend on a lot of things including age, gender and height!

For your height you have an ok PF. 450 is the national average for at 25yo female, who is 5’9!

The ventolin will only increase your PF if you have a respiratory condition with is lowering it atm (asthma, COPD etc), however if you don’t then it’s unlikely to make much different.

You can increase lung capacity (and thus PF), however most of the things you can do take a long time. They include stamina sports (like running and cycling or even diving) and singing and playing wind instruments. Alternatively you could try a ‘breath trainer’ however how much this will help in the short term I don’t know! (https://www.anawiz.com/acatalog/Ultrabreathe-Lung---Breathing-Exerciser--UB001.html?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIu-mB-sqe3gIV2Od3Ch12cg-0EAQYByABEgKcfPD_BwE for example)

You may be able to nudge it up slightly with practice (good technique means a better score), or by standing up to do it (lets your lungs inflate more than when you’re sitting down). Remember to take a very deep breath in, seal around the mouthpiece, and blow as hard/fast as you can!

Here’s a link to the chart on averages;

activ8rlives.com/support/da...

And a peak flow calculator for what would be ‘expected’ for you;

mdcalc.com/estimated-expect...

Hope that helps - I still thing it’s an odd thing to demand on a medical 😅 ps I’m assuming you’re female 😅

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Thank you for your reply. It helped me a lot. I reached 450 after running :)

Yes, I'm a female 😅 my job is an offshore engineer

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Glad it helped. If you can reach it once, then it’s probably a technique issue, so just practice til you hit 450 (or near enough) all the time. As an asthmatic the thought of hitting a new best immediately after a run is very weird 😂 (when I mentioned it earlier I meant you’d see a slight improvement after training for a few months 😅).

Sounds like an interesting job, just with a very bizarre medical 😂. You have a lot of people confused and indignant as to why they’re asking for a particular PF score 😂

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That seems really weird! It’s called a personal best for a reason.

My personal best is 450 (vs a predicted of 450) and my mum’s best is only about 300 (vs a predicted of 410) but her asthma is far better controlled than mine.

It can be affected by so many different things - particularly technique. But if you want to see if the ventolin has an effect, take your peak flow, take the ventolin, wait about 10 mins and then check your peak flow again. That should give the ventolin a chance to have an effect if it will help you :)

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In my case I do not not need a peak flow meter to tell my state of health. In fact I stopped using this device years ago. I can ‘feel’ my health and simply know when I need the blue rescue. Certainly I can tell and judge whether I’m fit for work or not. Hence I do not understand why you have to get pass the 450 threshold.

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My daughter has asthma, does triathlons at county level, and two marathons a year. Her peak flow is never more than 400 but she is very fit.

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If you do not exercise.then you should try. a little at a time.you will find it really helps.

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That seems rather odd. I’m 4’10” and 45 with a personal best peak flow of 450, but that is above my expected peak flow. In my case it’s likely that my ‘good performance’ is down to running competitively in my teens and technique. I think some people are just better at doing it than others, which is why peak flow is only really useful when you compare your readings with your own personal best. Also peak flow is only part of the story. In my case it is not particularly useful, e.g. at the moment my best is 410, following a chest infection. This according to the figures in my asthma plan is in the green zone (I.e. OK). However I’ve just been put on a short course of steroids because just a bit of light housework is enough to make me breathless.

i’m assuming that the doctor has given you ventolin inhaler because they think you have mild asthma. If this is the case then normally this would be there just as rescue inhaler for when you get symptoms, or if your symptoms are triggered by exercise then you can take it before you exercise. If you are needing the ventolin inhaler to relieve symptoms regularly (usually 3 or more times a week regularly when you are otherwise well) then you may need a type of preventer inhaler which you take every day whether you have symptoms or not.

Have you been given a peak flow device for home. If so, you could practice using it to improve your technique. But I’m surprised that work have asked you to get a minimum of 450 as that seems high for most healthy people of your height.

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Part of a work medical??? Really?? I think you may find they might be breaking the disabilities act!

Liz x

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My consultant has told me to stop the peak flow diary. I felt it was taking over my day - he thought so too!

I consider myself VERY fortunate with my health care here in the West Country.

Liz x

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I hit in the 410 mark and I don't care what anyone else says I need to make it higher or not. I have managed to get that for a while. If you do what the doctor says then it might go up. I noticed did with the right inhaler's. Always listen to your doctor's as they are the one's who help keep your asthma under control

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