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Home Lung Function Test

What Affects the Test

The accuracy of peak flow monitoring depends on your effort during the test. Results will be inaccurate if you do not follow directions or do not give your best effort during testing. The following factors also may affect the results of peak flow monitoring:

  • Using medicine that expands the airways in the lungs within 4 hours before the test may improve test results.
  • Using sedatives before the test may worsen test results.
  • People who have pain while breathing may not be able to breathe normally. So the results of their tests may be misleading.

What To Think About

  • Your doctor may do a complete series of lung function tests to confirm a lung disease, monitor the progression of lung disease, or monitor the effectiveness of treatment. For more information, see the topic Lung Function Tests.
  • Checking your peak expiratory flow (PEF) provides information that may help you decrease your asthma symptoms and keep your lungs as healthy as possible. The benefits of better lung function may include improved quality of life, fewer emergency department visits, greater personal control and confidence, and reduced use of oral steroid medicines, antibiotics, and bronchodilators. For more information on controlling your asthma, see the topic Asthma in Teens and Adults.
  • When using a home peak flow meter, it is best to use the same meter over time. Different brands of meters give different results. If you change your peak flow meter, you need to redetermine your personal best measurement using the new machine.
  • Wash your meter according to the manufacturer's directions to prevent growth of bacteria and fungi.
  • PEF is lowest in the early morning and highest in the afternoon. If you measure your PEF only once a day, do so first thing in the morning before using any bronchodilator medicine.
  • People with intermittent or mild persistent asthma may not need to check their PEF every day. But if symptoms develop, checking peak expiratory flow often for a period of time may be helpful in bringing asthma under control.

Other Works Consulted

  • Chernecky CC, Berger BJ (2008). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 5th ed. St. Louis: Saunders.

  • Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

  • Holcroft CA, et al. (2003). Measurement characteristics of peak expiratory flow. Chest, 124(2): 501–510.

  • National Institutes of Health (2007). National Asthma Education and Prevention Program Expert Panel Report 3: Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma (NIH Publication No. 08–5846). Available online: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/asthma/index.htm.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerRobert L. Cowie, MB, FCP(SA), MD, MSc, MFOM - Pulmonology
Last RevisedNovember 28, 2012
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 28, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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