27 Jun 24

Spirometry for children: how it can help diagnose and manage respiratory conditions

Spirometry is one of the most commonly used lung functionality tests. It can help record a series of parameters related to pulmonary function by simply measuring the volume of air a patient can exhale at maximum speed. The word spirometry itself means “measuring of breath”.

Because of its being painless, non-invasive, and easy to perform, spirometry is a valuable diagnostic tool when it comes to lung diseases in children.

In this article, we will explore how it can help diagnose and manage respiratory conditions in very young patients.

  1. What happens during a spirometry test

When going for a spirometry test, your child will be asked to take a deep breath and then breathe out as hard and fast as possible into a device called a spirometer, via a mouthpiece shaped like a tube. Though the test is very quick, it may need to be repeated after about 15 minutes.

It is evident that, though the test itself is easy and painless, a certain level of cooperation from the young patient will be required.

  1. Helping your child prepare for spirometry testing

Luckily, very little preparation is needed before a spirometry test. Your child can wear his normal clothes – just loosen them right before the test to relieve pressure on the diaphragm or the chest – no change in diet is required, and normal activities can be resumed as soon as the testing is over.

The only thing to keep in mind is to avoid taking breath medication for at least 4 hours before the test, otherwise the action of the drugs may lead to unreliable results. Remember: the objective of the test is not to obtain healthy results, but accurate results.

Before the test, your healthcare provider will ask about the patient’s history, just like in any other in-office visit, to get reference values for spirometer calibration.

When taking the test, a parent or guardian is usually allowed in the room. This can help relieve anxiety or fear in young patients. The best way to support them, in this scenario, is to stay calm and confident, so that the child will feel more relaxed. If the patient is very young, let’s say around age 5, a little coaching and encouragement may be necessary.

Most spirometers are equipped with pediatric incentives, to get more cooperation from children or difficult patients.

  1. Spirometry for children: early detection and diagnosis

Spirometry can help detect and monitor lung diseases, by evaluating airway obstruction and response to treatments. It also allows to establish a patient’s baseline lung function, to use as a reference for monitoring changes over time.

Here are some of the conditions that can be detected with the use of spirometry for children:

  • Asthma. Spirometry can detect airflow obstruction, a common hallmark of asthma, by measuring the forced expiratory volume in one second (known as FEV1), and the ratio of FEV1 to the forced vital capacity (known as FVC). The measurement can be repeated after administering a bronchodilator: if improvements in spirometric values are then recorded, this supports a diagnosis of asthma
  • Neuromuscular diseases. In children with neuromuscular conditions, spirometry can help monitor respiratory muscle strength and function
  • Cystic Fibrosis. Although rare in children, early detection of conditions like cystic fibrosis is crucial, as it can cause COPD-like symptoms, and managing the chronic aspect of cystic fibrosis may help the quality of life
  • Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). Children with a history of BPD may experience ongoing respiratory issues as they grow, which is why long-term management is necessary
  1. Managing respiratory conditions in children with the use of spirometry

Regular spirometry assessments can track the progression of respiratory conditions, enabling timely interventions and adjustments in treatment plans. Spirometry can help assess how well a child is responding to treatment, suggesting effectiveness or identifying exacerbations.

Because spirometry can detect early signs of exacerbation in chronic conditions – often long before symptoms worsen – more effective management strategies can be implemented in order to prevent severe episodes.

Another long-term advantage of spirometry for children is better patient education. Educating both children and their families about chronic lung conditions can help them take on a proactive role in the management of their pulmonary health. Demonstrating changes in lung function can motivate adherence to medications and lifestyle modifications.

  1. Where to find the right spirometer for your child

With over 30 years of experience in the field of Spirometry and Oximetry, MIR provides innovative solutions for healthcare and RPM. Its wide range of products includes portable spirometers with several features, such as:

  • USB and Bluetooth connection
  • Pediatric incentive animations
  • Traffic light system for immediate test interpretation
  • SpO2 and pulse rate are shown directly on display
  • Long-lasting rechargeable battery and large internal memory

Find out more on our official website.

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