How is Asthma Diagnosed?

Asthma is characterized by shortness of breath, tightness of the chest, wheezing and a persistent cough. Unfortunately, other serious medical conditions share the same symptoms, making it important that you have asthma testing done by a doctor before beginning any medication or over the counter remedies.

Your doctor will make a diagnosis based on your symptoms, frequency of flair ups, family history and tests done in your doctor’s office. While different doctors may prefer different tests, the most common asthma tests are listed below.

Peak Flow Measurement

A peak flow measurement shows how much air you can blow out of your lungs within an established amount of time. You will be asked to take a breath and then breathe out hard and fast into a small plastic tube called a peak flow meter.

Reversibility Tests

Reversibility tests use a peak flow meter to test your peak flow before you use any asthma medication, such as an inhaler, and again after. This allows your doctor to determine if a certain medication is beneficial, or not.


Spirometry uses a measurement of the speed and amount your lungs breath out. The measurement helps determine how well your lungs are working.

Exercise Test

Using the peak flow meter, your peak flow is tested before and after a number of small exercises. This is especially helpful for diagnosing exercise-induced asthma.

Ramie Tritt, M.D., President, Atlanta ENT

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