Asthma in Children: The Peak Flow MeterFriday, March 16, 2012 - 17:30
The peak flow meter is an important device that can give you valuable information about your child's air passages - whether air is passing through freely, or whether they are partially blocked.
The meter measures how fast the child is able to breathe into it. This measurement is known as the "peak flow."
Most children over the age of five can learn to use the meter, though with young children it's important to make sure they are doing it correctly.
Monitoring Your Child's Peak Flow
You should learn to use the peak flow meter as a tool for managing your child's
This involves taking regular peak flow measurements and comparing them against your child's best peak flow rates. This is the highest peak flow number a child can produce in the doctors office, when perfectly well, after inhaling medication to open the airways.
Together with your doctor you will decide on a plan of action if the peak flow reading falls significantly.
Why Peak Flow Numbers Are So Useful
By regularly measuring your child's peak flow you can:
- Predict when an attack may occur, by detecting a drop in peak flow hours or even a day or two before obvious symptoms appear.
- Know how well your child is responding to medication.
- Know whether your child's asthma is under control.
When To Use The Peak Flow Meter
The doctor will tell you how often the child should use the meter, and will show you and the child how to use it.
- If the asthma is quite severe, the doctor may want the child to use the meter daily, at the time of day when the asthma is usually worst.
- If the asthma is quite mild, the doctor may suggest using the meter only when the child is wheezing, or feels an attack may be coming on.
It is also useful to measure peak flow when the child is starting on a new medicine, because it will show clearly how well the medication is working.
How To Information
How To Use A Peak Flow Meter
Your child should:
Children can get readings that are too low by not taking a deep enough breath or by not blowing hard enough when blowing out. They can also get readings that are artificially high, by spitting into the meter or putting their hand in the wrong place on the meter. Parents may need to watch closely to make sure the child is doing it right.
Interpreting Peak Flow Numbers
Here's how you and your child can use a peak flow reading to help decide the severity of his or her immediate condition.
The peak flow reading will fall into one of three zone based on accepted medical standards:
- The Safety or Green Zone - This includes readings higher than 80% of the child's best peak flow rate. This indicates there is no problem and suggests that current treatment is working.
- The Caution or Yellow Zone - The child is only able to achieve 50% to 80% of his or her personal best peak flow rate. A reading in the caution zone means that the asthma is worse, even if your child feels fine and looks well.
Now you need to act on the plan worked out with your doctor - give or increase a particular medication or prepare for an attack. Your plan should make clear when the doctor is to be contacted. In many cases, this is not necessary unless readings repeatedly enter the Caution Zone, or stay there even after the treatment prescribed in your plan has been given.
- The Danger or Red Zone - The child is able to achieve only half, or less than half, of his or her personal best peak flow rate. This usually means an attack has begun.
Your plan should make clear what you need to do. This will include specific medication to be taken immediately. You should get in touch with your doctor if the medicine doesn't stop the attack, or go immediately to the emergency room.