One thing that people ask me about is the readings and numbers I have to check and keep an eye on and what those readings mean. Taking readings and clinical measurements is important when it comes to monitoring and managing a condition. Certain ones can show how serious things are.
The most important reading that any asthmatic should know and measure is peak expiratory flow. This is a measure as to how well your lungs are working at any given time and can point out whether things are suddenly getting worse. It is a reliable tool to show how well the medications are working rather than word of mouth. Its measured in litres/minute and a reading is taken by blowing as hard as possible in to a plastic tube or meter. I use an electronic meter device called a Piko-1. I find it more convenient and reliable than the plastic tubes you get from the doctors.
For someone my age, sex and height, a normal value would be 450 l/min. My personal best is 400l/min when I am well. My 75% mark (which indicates that I am starting to become unwell) is around 300l/min. Usually from here, I have to start being cautious and keep a close eye on things. If it goes below 250l/min, this is where we really start worrying and look at seeing a doctor asap. My 50% mark, anything below there is considered "critical" is 200l/min. Usually if things fall below there, I'm going to start showing signs of slowing down. My oxygen levels become unstable after the 150l/min mark and the usual protocol is to nebulise first and if things get worse or I drop suddenly, call 999 and get an ambulance. This is the point where things start getting life threatening so calling an ambulance is more than appropriate.
Calling an ambulance isn't something I take lightly. I'm not the sort or person who calls them for little reason and when they are called, they are always the first to say that I did the right thing, if not a bit later than I ought. I know a lot of people would say "its only asthma, why are you calling an ambulance out? They're for life threatening emergencies" and to them I say "my asthma is a life threatening emergency. Had I not made the call then I could have died." There's been times when the person who was with me has had to be warned that either an intubation maybe on the way or that there was a chance that I could die. Its a scary thing and knowing how close it's come does tend to make me worry but I try to do what I can.
Over the last few days my peak flows have again dropped to below the 50% mark and although I'm keeping on top of it, I can't deny that I haven't been at all well. I've been sleeping a lot, barely interested in food (its been a recent worry that I've not been asking for meals due to no appetite and my breathing has been worse) as well as a cough that's become quite weak. It'll be alright though, I know my limits and when things are getting too much I know what to do. Although I am really hoping it doesn't come to that.