ACCESSING SPIROMETRY DURING COVID-19 FOR ASTHMA DIAGNOSIS OR MONITORING
Spirometry is the main recommended lung function test for the diagnosis and monitoring of asthma and other respiratory conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in primary health care.
When done correctly, according to international guidelines, lung function testing can be a very useful part of your asthma management plan. It is also highly recommended for asthma diagnosis.
However, it is considered a procedure that has the potential to increase the risk of respiratory virus transmission, such as that which can cause the spread of COVID-19. As a result, your medical practitioner or asthma treatment team may decide not to continue with lung function testing temporarily, especially if they are in a high risk area.
In settings where lung function testing is permitted and continues, it is recommended that patients are assessed for symptoms that may be similar to COVID-19. In case of similar symptoms, you may be asked to have a COVID-19 test and your lung function assessment postponed until your test result is confirmed negative. Follow this link to remind yourself of COVID-19 signs and symptoms.
If a lung function test is arranged, you may notice your health professional wearing personal protective equipment.
All services who perform lung function testing are advised to consult with their local health authority for advice on precautions around lung function testing during COVID-19.
To read more about lung function testing see:
IS THERE ANOTHER WAY TO MEASURE MY LUNG FUNCTION?
Peak flow monitoring may be an acceptable option for you after discussing with your doctor.
Peak flow monitoring is done with a peak flow meter. It measures the maximum (or peak) speed at which you can blow air out of your lungs. This gives a general idea of how narrow your airways are. It can also show how much your airways are changing over time if you measure your peak flow each day.
Peak flow monitoring is not the same as spirometry and is only recommended as a guide to help you and your health professional monitor your lung function.
Peak flow monitoring is not recommended to be used to confirm whether you have asthma.
LOGGING ACCURATE PEAK FLOW MEASUREMENTS
Reliable records will help your doctor make an accurate assessment of your asthma along with a record of asthma symptoms and reliever use, to adjust your treatment regimen.
Here’s what you can do:
- Use this helpful log developed by the National Asthma Council Australia and Woolcock Institute for logging your lung capacity using
- Peak flow meter: Peak flow chart
- Using a chart is more useful than just written down as a list of numbers.
- Take regular readings at the same time each day rather than one-off readings
- Put in the same amount of effort (maximum) when blowing into the meter each time
- Use the correct technique (see at end)
- You will need to find your ‘best’ test score or personal best
WHAT SHOULD MY LUNG CAPACITY SCORE BE?
It’s important to talk with your doctor first before moving ahead with using a peak flow meter, ensuring your optimal score and what to do if the results drop below, are clearly documented on your written Asthma Action Plan.
Your score should be based on what your personal best peak flow measurement would be. This needs to be worked out with your doctor.
If your score is lower than normal, this can mean your airways are narrower than usual. When your airways are open with no swelling or irritation, the score should be the same or close to the same as your best score.
Everyone will have a different best score, as it depends on an individual’s height, age and gender.
If you are feeling unwell despite good peak flow test results, follow the instructions on your Asthma Action Plan or see your doctor.
WHO CAN USE A PEAK FLOW METER?
Peak flow monitoring is not recommended for children under 12 years. In most children with asthma, change in symptoms is as effective as peak flow monitoring for demonstrating that their asthma is getting worse.
OTHER WAYS TO TEST YOUR ASTHMA CONTROL TO HELP YOU AND YOUR DOCTOR
Doctors will also be looking at your asthma symptoms and your asthma control, to manage your treatment and plans at home. Completing the Asthma Control Test on our website can also assist your doctor in determining your level of asthma control. Take the test here and let your doctor know the result at your next asthma review appointment.
You can also call 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462) to speak with an Asthma Educator to assist you in improving your asthma control or book a call back here.
STOP THE SPREAD WHEN USING A PEAK FLOW METER
If you have COVID-19 it is important to follow health department advice and not come into physical contact with other people until you no longer have the virus. Your doctor and the public health unit will advice you exactly when this will be.
Coronavirus particles can remain on surfaces for several days and remain in the air for several hours so it is critical not to be complacent about this advice.
PEAK FLOW TECHNIQUE
You should talk to your doctor or pharmacist about technique when this is written into your Asthma Action Plan. For a refresher, see below.
- Attach mouthpiece at the end of the peak flow meter, if it has a separate mouthpiece.
- Hold the peak flow meter so that the marker is facing upwards and the marker is on zero (0)
- Take a big breath whilst standing upright
- Place into mouth with lips tightly around mouthpiece, keep holding the meter horizontal
- Blow hard and fast for 2-3 seconds until your lungs are completely empty
- Read score
- Put marker to zero and repeat 2 or 3 more times.
- Record the best 3 readings on the peak flow chart.