Asthma: Using an Asthma Action Plan

Introduction

If you or your child has asthma that requires daily treatment, it is important to have an asthma action plan. An asthma action plan is a written plan that tells you what asthma medicine to take every day and how to treat an asthma attack. It can help you make quick decisions in case you are not able to think clearly during an attack.

An asthma action plan usually includes:

  • Treatment goals, which include your personal goals about your asthma.
  • An outline of the medicines you take daily for asthma control and when to take them.
  • An asthma diary where you record peak expiratory flow (PEF) and the triggers that cause asthma symptoms.
  • Steps to take and medicines to use to treat an asthma attack early, before it becomes severe.
  • What to do if an attack becomes an emergency, and where to get medical treatment.

Using an asthma action plan can help you stay active with fewer asthma problems. Following your plan is a big step toward controlling the disease so you can live the life you want.

 

An asthma action plan has three zones. You can find out what zone you are in by checking your peak flow or symptoms. Peak flow is a measure of how much air you breathe out when you exhale. You check your peak flow with a peak flow meter, an inexpensive device that you can use at home. Your doctor can show you how to use it.

The zones of an asthma action plan(What is a PDF document?) are based on the colors of a stoplight.

Green zone

Green means Go.

  • You are in the green zone if your peak flow is 80% to 100% of your personal best measurement. You should have no asthma symptoms when you are in the green zone. You want to be in the green zone every day.
  • If you continue to stay in the green zone, your doctor may lower your daily asthma medicines.

Yellow zone

Yellow means Caution.

  • You are in the yellow zone if your peak flow is 50% to 79% of your personal best measurement. You may not have any symptoms, but your lung function is reduced. When symptoms are present, they may be mild to moderate, or may keep you from your normal activities or disturb your sleep.
  • Being in the yellow zone means that you should take action. Your action plan should state what medicines you need to take, how much to take, and when to take them.
  • If you keep going into the yellow zone from the green zone, talk with your doctor. You may need a different medicine. Or the doses of your medicines may need to be increased.

Red zone

Red means DANGER.

  • You are in the red zone if your peak flow is less than 50% of your personal best measurement. Your symptoms will be severe, and you may cough and be very short of breath.
  • If your symptoms and peak flow are in the red zone, follow your action plan.
  • Call 911 right away if you are in the red zone and you have followed your action plan, but:
    • You are having severe difficulty breathing.
    • 20 to 30 minutes after taking the extra medicine, you do not feel better and/or your peak flow is still less than 50% of your personal best measurement.

Test Your Knowledge

How can using an asthma action plan help me?

Continue to Why?

 

Using an asthma action plan takes the guesswork out of treating asthma attacks. It can help you to:

  • Take control of your treatment.
  • Have fewer or less severe attacks.
  • Avoid trips to the doctor or the hospital.

Test Your Knowledge

An asthma action plan makes me more dependent on my doctor for help.

  • True
    This answer is incorrect.

    An asthma action plan can help you take control of your treatment and be more independent. It shows you how to treat asthma attacks, so it can help you avoid going to the doctor's office or the hospital.

  • False
    This answer is correct.

    An asthma action plan can help you take control of your treatment and be more independent. It shows you how to treat asthma attacks, so it can help you avoid going to the doctor's office or the hospital.

  •  

Continue to How?

 

Develop your plan

  • Work with your doctor to make an asthma action plan(What is a PDF document?) for you or your child. The action plan is based on peak flow and asthma symptoms. These help your doctor know how bad your asthma is. An action plan may include:
    • The peak flow readings and symptoms for each zone.
    • What medicines to take in each zone.
    • When to call a doctor.
    • A list of emergency contact numbers.
    • A list of your asthma triggers.
  • Let your doctor know what you want regarding asthma care. For example, if you are not comfortable using a peak flow meter, tell your doctor.
  • If you make an asthma action plan for your child, give a copy to the child's school or caregivers and make sure they know how to use it.

Follow your daily treatment, and use the asthma action plan

  • Take your daily medicines to help minimize long-term damage and avoid asthma attacks.
  • Check your peak flow regularly, such as every morning. This is the best way to know how well your lungs are working.
  • Check your action plan to see what zone you are in.
    • If you are in the green zone (peak flow is 80% to 100% of your personal best), keep taking your daily asthma medicines as prescribed.
    • If you are in the yellow zone (peak flow is 50% to 79% of your personal best), you may be having or will soon have an asthma attack. You may not have any symptoms, but your lungs are not working as well as they should. Take the medicines listed in your action plan. If you stay in the yellow zone, your doctor may need to increase the dose or add a medicine.
    • If you are in the red zone (peak flow is less than 50% of your personal best), follow your action plan. If your symptoms or peak flow don't improve soon, you may need to go to the emergency room or be admitted to the hospital.
  • Use an asthma diary(What is a PDF document?). Write down your peak flow readings in the asthma diary. If you have an attack, write down what caused it (if you know), the symptoms, and what medicine you took.

Review the plan with your doctor

  • Take both the asthma action plan and the asthma diary when you see your doctor. Get answers to any questions you have about your asthma plan or your symptoms. Let your doctor know if treatment is not controlling your asthma attacks.
  • Take your peak flow meter and medicines so your doctor can review your treatment.
  • Make sure you know how and when to call your doctor or go to the hospital.
  • Tell your doctor if you are having trouble following your action plan.

Test Your Knowledge

After I make an asthma action plan, I never need to change it.

  • True
    This answer is incorrect.

    An action plan may need to be adjusted over time to give you the best control over your symptoms. Each time you see your doctor, take your plan and your asthma diary and discuss how well treatment is working to prevent or control asthma attacks.

  • False
    This answer is correct.

    An action plan may need to be adjusted over time to give you the best control over your symptoms. Each time you see your doctor, take your plan and your asthma diary and discuss how well treatment is working to prevent or control asthma attacks.

  •  

Continue to Where?

 

Talk with your doctor

If you have questions about this information, take it with you when you visit your doctor. Make notes about what you would like to ask about or discuss.

If you would like more information on asthma, the following resource is available:

Organization

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA)
1233 20th Street NW
Suite 402
Washington, DC  20036
Phone: 1-800-7-ASTHMA (1-800-727-8462)
Email: info@aafa.org
Web Address: www.aafa.org
 

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) provides information and support for people who have allergies or asthma. The AAFA has local chapters and support groups. And its Web site has online resources, such as fact sheets, brochures, and newsletters, both free and for purchase.


Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Lora J. Stewart, MD - Allergy and Immunology
Last Revised March 14, 2013

Last Revised: March 14, 2013

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