Asthma reduces and constricts the airways as a result of which the patient suffers from a normal way of breathing. During an attack, the smooth muscles of the lungs go into spasm, with the surrounding tissue enflamed and secreting mucus into the airways. The causes of an attack are, however, well understood by both doctors and patients. Child care providers need to recognize when a child is suffering an attack in order to prevent severe and prolonged effects. Nonetheless, an acute attack usually occurs during a cold or cough caused by a viral infection. Pay attention to worsening asthma as it may prevent a serious attack.

One way that people with asthma can detect if they are going to have an asthma attack is by measuring their peak expiratory flow or peak flow for short. Peak flow measures how fast a person breathes out when that person tries his or her hardest. Basically, it tells a person how well his or her lungs and airways are working. This is often measured with a peak flow meter, a small analog or digital device that a person breathes into.

Peak flow assists people with asthma by telling them that an asthma attack is likely to occur. If a person’s peak flow is low then the person’s asthma is bothering him or her and the likelihood of an attack increases. This may be caused by triggers that increase the asthma symptoms such as pollen, cigarette smoke, or dust. A peak flow meter can help a person detect these triggers and steps can be made to remove the person from the triggers.

Measuring peak flow is also often used to access if certain asthma medications are helping a person or not. If a person’s peak flow measurement is low then it may be a cue to change or increase medications to alleviate the asthma symptoms and prevent the likelihood of asthma attack. If a peak flow is very high, then it may be possible to reduce the dosage of medications. No changes to medications should be made without the consultation of the doctor.

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