Question:What constitutes an elevated breathing rate?
Answer: An elevated breathing rate, by pure definition, is someone who's taking more than 20 deep, normal breaths -- deep breaths, normal breaths -- per minute. And most people with asthma don't really necessarily have increased rate of breathing unless their asthma is really, really acting up.
Typically what they feel instead is that they feel a sense of air hunger, like no matter how much of a deep breath they take they just can't get the sensation of being relaxed with their breathing. The other thing that they often will report is that they can take a nice deep breath, but then it takes a long time for them to get that air out.
So, while we do monitor the number of breaths per minute, both during an office visit as well as just on a general basis, we're actually more important in monitoring the flow of the air as it comes out of the lungs. And that's why we frequently equip our asthmatic patients with a device called a peak flow meter, which is a little hand-held device that they can actually blow into and measure how much air they're able to exhale from their lungs. This can be a very useful tool in judging control of asthma and exacerbations of asthma.