All people with asthma should have an asthma action plan, a written plan you develop with your doctor to help control your asthma. The asthma action plan describes what kind of medicines you have been prescribed and when to take them. Your plan describes how to manage asthma long-term and how to handle worsening asthma symptoms or attacks. The plan explains when to go to the doctor or go to the emergency room. Asthma action plans are helpful, especially for caregivers. If you have a child with asthma, you should give teachers, babysitters, neighbors and other caretakers a copy of your child’s asthma action plan.

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To maintain control of your asthma, an important step is measuring asthma control. There are many ways to measure control – from subjective measures such as patient history and at-home tracking tools to more concrete measurements like peak flow meters or spirometers. However, new and emerging non-invasive tests are changing the way doctors are assessing both large and small airway inflammation. So be sure to check in with your family doctor on a regular basis to ensure you have all the information available to help monitor and maintain control of asthma.

Get Measured: Spirometry Tests at the Doctor's Office

During your regular doctor visits, your doctor may use a device called a spirometer to check how well your lungs are working. Spirometers measure how much air you breathe in and out and how fast you blow it out. This is measured two ways: peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR) and forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1).

PEFR refers to how quickly you can blow air out of your lungs. FEV1 refers to the amount of air blown out in one second. These tests will show if your airways are inflamed and narrowed or if the muscles around your airways have tightened up.

Conventional spirometry tests are considered a normal measure of asthma control. However, spirometry does have some limitations in measuring lung function, particularly in children. Traditional spirometry requires that you perform forced breathing techniques that can be difficult for young children. Additionally, FEV1 mainly reflects the large airways and as we know, asthma also affects the small airways. Therefore, some doctors may also consider using a different measure called FEF25-75, which may be a better measure of inflammation in the small airways.

Researchers are now looking at other non-invasive assessment tests for measuring control. Read more about this research in the Asthma Research & News section.

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