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Spirometer vs Peak flow meter

I will probably take this up with the allergist at the next meeting but want to get the community's input on this:

I am currently using a Peak flow meter to monitor asthma on a daily basis. Does a spirometer work any better for this? Is it a better predictor of things than the peak flow meter? Is it suitable for kids as young as 6 years?

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  • K8sMom2002

    That's a good question … I know that @Pljohns uses a peak flow meter regularly. 

    Are you seeing a difference in peak flow readings and symptoms? 

  • Kathy P

    Peak flow and spirometry are similar, but different Both measure lung function, but different aspects. Here is an except from page that explains:

    . This is the recommended test to confirm asthma. During this test, you breathe into a mouthpiece that’s connected to a device, called a spirometer, or to a laptop. It measures the amount of air you’re able to breathe in and out and its rate of flow. You will take a deep breath and then exhale forcefully. 

    This test uses a peak flow meter. It’s a small, handheld device that you breathe into to measure the rate at which you can force air out of your lungs. During the test, you breathe in as deeply as you can and then blow into the device as hard and fast as possible. If you’re diagnosed with asthma, you can use a peak flow meter at home to help track your condition. But a peak flow meter cannot be used to diagnose asthma.

  • K8sMom2002

    Many people who monitor their numbers use a peak flow meter. That's the reason I suggested you talk with your doc to see if there was a reason to go beyond a peak flow meter.

    Some members here have said that their numbers either with a peak flow or a pulse ox device don't always track exactly with their symptoms, but then will fall in line and tank if they don't treat by their symptoms. 

    Each person is individual and unique, and your pulmo is going to be the best one to advise you on this. 

  • Pljohns

    Venkata-I use a digital peak flow meter that also measures FEV1.  My asthma is very difficult to manage and is not controlled at all.  The readings over time have helped me determine what flares me as I make notes about weather changes etc.  It also helped me determine that my FEV1 didn't come back around after my last LONG flare so my pulmonologist wants to do a full pulmonary function test the next time I see him and see if they have come back up or if that is still showing some constriction.  Because my asthma isn't " allergy trigger" (I have non-allergic asthma) driven, having the peak flow numbers and FEV1 numbers have helped me tremendously to know when to start extra treatments.  I found if I waited until I actually had symptoms, it was too late and it took a lot longer to get things back under control.

  • Venkata Aspari

    Thank you @Pljohns, @Kathy P, @K8sMom2002. I wanted to know if there is any more value to using a spirometer. Perhaps I could detect an impending flare up well in advance and take  good precaution? @Pljohns, which digital peak flow meter are you using? Does it auto-upload the data to your computer or cloud?

  • Pljohns

    I use this Piko meter and have for 6 years now.  It does upload to it’s on program that came with mine but they didn’t upgrade the version I had so it quit working when I upgraded windows several years ago.  I just put the readings in a blood pressure app that I use and then type them in Excel so I can control the data and manipulate it how I need to.

  • Kathy P

    I have an older version of that one Lynn. I don't have the cradle for it to upload data though.

    I had been just using the old school mechanical PF meter. For me, it was not very helpful as my numbers don't drop til things are really bad. But now that I have FEV1, I'm looking at that to see if I can notice trends. I also use an oximeter as I've found my O2 sat will drop and HR ride when I'm flaring.

  • LK

    The FEV1 looks like something I need to look into.  Like you, Kathy, I have just been using an old-school mechanical PF meter.  It isn't very helpful with my numbers either even when I'm not doing well.

    It would be nice to see if I can track trends, too.   May need you to show me how to enter the data in Excel, Lynn!  My 30-yr-old Computer Science degree is sorely lacking! 

    Thanks for the information!   

  • Pljohns

    I prefer to use Excel-yes, it's an extra step but I don't have to worry about the developer not updating his app or some software(I've had that happen with an app and also the software that came with the Piko meter) and me losing that data-I've lost 3 years worth of data because of that.  At least this way, I'm totally responsible for it and I much prefer it that way!  

    I really like the digital one that gives me both FEV1 and Peak flow.  You can use the dock and software to set your asthma action plan numbers in for yellow and red and it beeps LOUDLY when you hit red.   It's been a good meter and has lasted me 6-7 years.

  • K8sMom2002

    Lynn, sounds like you're getting lots of good info out of your model and your spreadsheet. It would have been super frustrating for me to lose all that data! 

    Venkata, perhaps your doctors will suggest a peak flow meter that has worked well for them and give you the information that you need.

    I also agree that keeping a log of readings over a long period of time, especially if you add to that notes about weather, pollen, foods (if you suffer from reflux) and activity outside can help you see trends. 

  • Venkata Aspari

    I have the old school peakflow meter too. And I have the same issue as @Kathy P, with son's readings as well. They don't drop enough till things are very bad. @K8sMom2002, yeah, will have to bring this up at the doc's the next time. I hope the FEV1 gives a better picture. @Pljohns, I understand your point of losing data. I wish the entire system is automated with provision for data backups and export into systems like Microsoft Healthvault etc.

  • Pljohns

    After losing so much date, I won’t ever load my data into some other product.  I don’t want to be dependent on Microsoft to maintain health vault or any other app/program. I’ve been burned too many times and lost data that can’t be retrieved.  

    I will say that the FEV1 is helping me a lot.  I have been on a flare since Jan 3rd-they wanted to admit me, but there were no beds because of the flu.  I spent 6 weeks trying everything and finally got it turned around. When I saw my pulmo for a follow up, I told him everything had come back around EXCEPT FEV1-he didn’t know my meter measured it but was very interested in what I normally run and what I’m still running.  He said there must still be some inflammation that was totally resolved.  I would not have known this if I just went by peak flow numbers as mine have returned to normal and I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t had the data to look back at.

  • LK

    I sure still have a lot to learn about taking care of myself with asthma!  Never thought there was about having my own FEV1 meter to use at home. 

  • Pljohns

    Glad to help-I must admit-it's the first time I've had to keep an eye on the FEV1 as it normally hangs in the same range unless I"m flaring but this is the first time it hasn't come back around.

  • Venkata Aspari

    The pikometer shows FEV6 along with FEV1. Does that reading help in anyway @Pljohns. I am looking at this other device, . It measures PEF, FEV0.5, FEV0.75 and FEV1. Not sure which one is better. All of them are alphabet soup to me at this moment.

  • Pljohns

    Perhaps someone else can tell you what the FEV0.5 and FEV0.7 is-I've never used them and my doc has never mentioned them.  I did a google search on them and the FEV0.5 came up with what the FEV is in increments of .5.  My pulmo was only interested in the PEF and FEV1 so that's all I log

  • Kathy P

    Interesting – I have seen charts and calculators for FEV1, but not for others.

  • K8sMom2002

    Venkata, will you print out the information and take it to your doc? I do hope that getting more info will help you learn more about how to control your asthma. 

    I'll be interested in what your doc has to say … 

  • Venkata Aspari

    With some online research, I figured out that FEV0.5, FEV0.75 are used as indicators for kids below 5 years of age. FEV6 seems to be an important measurement for COPD issues. FEV6 for asthma management is not clear even after some research. I will bring it up with our allergist in the next visit and see if she can clarify.

  • K8sMom2002

    Very interesting! Thanks for sharing — I really look forward to hearing what you learn from your allergist and what your allergist recommends.

    Is your allergist a "tech" kind of person? Or not?