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Spirometry is a common and effective diagnostic test that can easily be done in your doctor’s office or at a nearby hospital or clinic. You will be asked to take in a big breath, and then blow as hard and long as you can into a machine. The machine measures how much air you can blow out from your lungs and how fast you can blow it out. Spirometry is the most reliable way to test your lungs for COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and asthma.
Who should have spirometry testing?
- People with asthma
- Spirometry is an important diagnosis and management tool for people with asthma. If you have asthma and never had a spirometry test, please talk to your doctor about spirometry.
- Smokers and former smokers
- If you are over 40 and smoke or used to smoke, you may have COPD. Take this quick test to screen for symptoms of COPD.
What happens during a spirometry test
You’ll be seated during the test and a soft clip will be placed on your nose to stop air escaping from it.
The tester will explain what you need to do, and you may be asked to have a few practice attempts first.
When you’re ready for the test, you’ll be asked to:
- inhale fully, so your lungs are completely filled with air
- close your lips tightly around the mouthpiece
- exhale as quickly and forcefully as you can, making sure you empty your lungs fully
This will normally need to be repeated at least 3 times to ensure a reliable result.
In some cases, the test may need to be repeated around 15 minutes after taking some inhaled bronchodilator medication.
This can show if you have a lung condition that responds to these medications.
Overall, your appointment should last around 30 to 90 minutes. You’ll be able to go home soon after the tests have finished and can return to your normal activities.