How to Test your Lung Capacity at Home

Knowing your lung capacity and health is of vital importance to anyone undergoing oxygen therapy or experiencing a respiratory disease like asthma or emphysema.

It can mean the difference between keeping yourself active and having a severe episode.

Here’s a method that is relatively inexpensive and doesn’t require a lot of time.

Why Test Lung Health?

Testing your lung health, or lung function, is an important way to recognize not just your current lung capacity, but also the changes in your lung strength over time.

Here are some good reasons to test your lung health at home:

  • Know when to call your doctor or get emergency care
  • Catch flare-ups in time for early treatment
  • Track and discover your asthma triggers
  • Determine how your oxygen treatment is working

Knowing your lung capacity is especially important for asthma sufferers, who according to the Cleveland Clinic, may catch oncoming episodes even though you seem to be fine.

The lung function test is by no means a replacement for seeing a doctor, but it will help you keep tabs on your lung health.

Here’s the Home Solution

How do you measure your lung capacity? A common method is using a Peak Flow Meter, a handheld device that measures the strength of your breath. You simply breathe into one end and the meter instantly shows a reading on a scale, typically in liters per minute (lpm).

The Peak Flow Meter is a relatively inexpensive device that’s readily available at your local drug store, or through an online retailer. You should consult your physician for recommendations.

How to Use a Peak Flow Meter

There may be specific instructions for your particular Peak Flow Meter so it’s best to first get the instruction of your physician or trained healthcare provider.

Here are some tips to consider, from The American Lung Association:

  • Repeat the entire routine three times. (You know you have done the routine correctly when the numbers from all three tries are very close together.)
  • Record the highest of the three ratings. Do not calculate an average. This is very important! You can’t breathe out too much when using your peak flow meter, but you can breathe out too little.
  • Measure your peak flow rate close to the same time each day. You and your healthcare provider can determine the best times. One suggestion is to measure your peak flow rate twice daily between 7 and 9 am and between 6 and 8 pm. You may want to measure your peak flow rate before or after taking your medicine, or both. Try to do it the same way each time.
  • Keep a chart of your peak flow rates. Discuss the readings with your healthcare provider.
  • For more details, you can read through these flow meter instructions at the Mayo Clinic website.

Let’s Recap

When you have a lung disease or other respiratory concern, the status of your condition fluctuates from day to day. Knowing your lung capacity will help you keep track of your health, and it’s something you can do at home.

Using a Peak Flow Meter is one of the easiest and most convenient ways to track the daily progress of your lung health. This device might be handy if you have an ailment like chronic bronchitis or emphysema, but you’ll want to ask your doctor if a home test is right for you.

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