Study objective: To determine if gender differences in the skill of using peak flow meters affect peak expiratory flow (PEF).
Design: Prospective observational study.
Setting: University classroom.
Subjects: One hundred sixteen first-year pharmacy students (76 women, 40 men).
Intervention: Students were taught correct use of a peak flow meter by means of classroom discussion and demonstrations.
Measurements and main results: The students' technique in use of the peak flow meter was scored 3 times, and their PEF was recorded. Men scored higher than women (p=0.03) for the steps of "inhale fully" and "exhale as hard and as fast as you can" in the first attempt. Percentage increases in PEF did not significantly differ between the groups. Percentage change in PEF improved from the second attempt to the third attempt in women (p=0.036) but not men. On the third attempt, 13.2% of women versus 2.6% of men had an increase in PEF of more than 50% (p=0.1).
Conclusion: This study found that men learned the correct technique for using a peak flow meter and attained their best PEF more quickly than women.