Updated August 2022
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Buying guide for best spirometers

Breathing is something that most of us don’t even think about. It’s an activity that happens whether we’re paying attention to it or not. However, some individuals are not so lucky; each and every breath they take can be a challenge. A critical part of treatment for many chronic lung diseases requires monitoring how effectively the lungs are working. For that, you need a spirometer.

Spirometers measure lung activity in a variety of ways. Some can measure your full lung capacity, but most home models focus on peak flow rates. Some are designed specifically to measure, while others can be used for treatment and exercise. The type needed varies from individual to individual, so it's best to be aware of all your options.

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Spirometers are vital diagnostic tools. A change in the results can alert you to a potential problem before any symptoms appear.

Key considerations

Why do you need a spirometer?

Because spirometers can either measure a number of different lung functions or help train your breathing muscles, you must first ask your doctor why you need a spirometer and understand how you’ll be using it. A unit that only measures lung capacity and peak flow, for instance, will not be of any value to you if you need an incentive spirometer, which helps strengthen your breathing muscles. Understanding why you need a spirometer will quickly reduce your purchasing options by roughly half.

Analog vs. digital

There are two basic types of spirometer: analog and digital.

  • Analog: An analog spirometer has moving parts and indicators that change position as you inhale or exhale. These are most often used to determine peak flow. When you exhale into the spirometer, an indicator rises and remains at the highest point after you've finished, so you can effortlessly get a reading. Alternatively, there are incentive spirometers, breathing training devices with colored balls that rise to a certain level when you inhale with the proper force. These spirometers are the least expensive models you can purchase and require no electricity. The downside is that you have to manually record your data.

  • Digital: The term “digital” here is a little misleading because all spirometers gather their information through some kind of physical or analog method. Where the difference comes in is how these models display that information and what they can do with it. The most basic models simply display your readings on a screen. Many people prefer this because they get a precise number without needing to eyeball where an indicator rises in relation to the measurements on the unit. Additionally, some spirometers save these readings so you can track your progress over time. The most expensive digital spirometers come with an app and Bluetooth connectivity. These can immediately save all your data on your smartphone and send it to your doctor. The biggest downside is that these spirometers require a power source to function, usually batteries.
"An incentive spirometer has a visual indicator that allows you to see how well your lungs are working."

Spirometer features

After understanding how you will be using your spirometer and deciding if you’d like an analog or digital model, there are a few other factors to consider before purchasing the best one for your particular needs.

Mouthpieces: A model that comes with disposable or interchangeable mouthpieces is preferred if more than one individual in the household will be using the spirometer.

Nose clips: A breathing test is more accurate when your nose is sealed. Purchasing a model that comes with nose clips is a good idea, or you’ll have to purchase the nose clips separately.

Maintenance: Whenever you blow into your spirometer, it will accumulate moisture that can become a breeding ground for germs. The easier it is to clean your spirometer, the healthier you will be.

Memory: As noted above, many digital spirometers have a limited memory that enables you to track your progress over time. If this is important to you, look for a spirometer that has enough memory to satisfy your needs.

Bluetooth: Bluetooth connectivity allows a spirometer to connect directly to an app on your smartphone. This is the best way to monitor your progress because it requires no additional effort by you.

Spirometer prices

Inexpensive: You can purchase an analog spirometer for $10 to $20. In this price range, the models are very basic and have an indicator that shows you your peak flow.

Mid-range: From $20 to $40, you can find lower-end digital models and incentive spirometers.

Expensive: For $40 and up, the digital models have more advanced features, such as memory and Bluetooth capabilities, so you can track a wider variety of parameters by using your smartphone.

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Did you know?
A spirometer can be used to help diagnose chronic lung conditions like asthma, COPD, bronchitis, emphysema, and pulmonary fibrosis.


Whether you’re using your spirometer to check your peak flow or using an incentive spirometer to strengthen your breathing muscles, there are a few techniques that can help you get the most out of your device.

Peak flow spirometer

  • Don’t eat or drink before checking your peak flow. A full stomach can interfere with an accurate reading.

  • Don’t use a bronchodilator before checking your peak flow.

  • Wear loose clothing. Your diaphragm can move more freely.

  • Stand straight. Plant your feet flat on the floor with back straight and chin up.

  • Wear a nose clip. If needed, wear the clip to keep air from unintentionally escaping through your nose.

  • Slide the indicator down to the bottom of the peak flow meter.

  • Take a very deep breath. Your lungs should be full for the most accurate reading.

  • Hold your breath and place the mouthpiece in your mouth. Do not block the mouthpiece in any way with your tongue.

  • Exhale. In one short, explosive exhale, try to empty your lungs by blowing through the mouthpiece.

  • Record your result. Slide the indicator back down to the bottom of the peak flow meter.

  • Repeat the process two more times. The highest number you get is your peak flow.

Incentive spirometer

  • Don’t eat or drink before using your incentive spirometer. A full stomach can interfere with proper treatment.

  • Wear loose clothing. Your diaphragm can move more freely.

  • Sit in a chair. Keep your feet flat on the floor, back straight, and chin up.

  • Exhale normally.

  • Inhale slowly. Raise the ball (or other indicator) to the appropriate level and keep it there while inhaling.

  • Hold your breath for as long as you comfortably can.

  • Wait a few seconds before repeating. Do this five or ten times (or as directed by your doctor).

  • Repeat throughout the day. Do this as directed by your doctor. If you feel any discomfort or pain, consult with your doctor before continuing treatments. If you feel lightheaded or dizzy, stop your treatment until the feeling goes away.

Other products we considered

Depending on whether you need a peak flow meter or an incentive spirometer or prefer a digital model, you might be interested in a few alternatives to the highly rated models that we've listed above. Here are three more quality spirometers that can help you with your breathing needs. If you’re looking for a budget-priced device, the Omron Peak Flow Meter may be just what you need. This is a low-end, no-frills model that you blow into to raise a little marker that indicates your peak airflow. The SoulGenie HealthAndYoga Deep Breathing Exerciser has three balls that rise as you inhale. The idea is to gradually build up your lung strength until you can get all three balls to rise to the top of their chambers. The ChoiceMMed LungBoost Lung Exerciser is a digital unit that is easy to clean and offers endurance and strength training along with multiple resistance levels.

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A spirometer isn't just a tool that is used to detect unfavorable lung performance. Athletes can use the device as part of their training, too.


Q. What does a spirometer do?

A. A spirometer is a device that is used to measure the air in your lungs. Depending on the model you get, a spirometer can measure the total volume of air in your lungs and/or the force you can expel that air in one second. Additionally, some models that we’ve included here (incentive spirometers) can be used for respiratory muscle training, which can benefit individuals suffering from asthma, COPD, and other conditions that impact the effectiveness of your lungs.

Q. Is using a spirometer safe?

A. Yes. To use a spirometer, all you need to do is breathe. It is completely safe with only a few exceptions. Sometimes the deep breathing can temporarily reduce the carbon dioxide levels in your blood, causing you to feel lightheaded or, in the most extreme cases, faint. Additionally, some spirometers require a bit of effort to operate. If you have any restrictions on exerting yourself, you should not be using a spirometer without a doctor’s consent.

Q. What is a good reading on a spirometer?

A. The ideal readings vary depending on age, gender, height, and race. In most instances, you want a reading that falls within 80% of the reference value, which your doctor should give to you. Alternatively, if you’re using a spirometer to monitor a condition, you may have your own set of target values that you’re trying to hit that are independent of the reference values.

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