If you have asthma, you're in the driver's seat to monitor and manage it. But even a great driver needs a roadmap at times. Your map can be your personal asthma action plan.
You and your doctor or asthma specialist should develop this plan together. This individualized worksheet can help you learn how to:
- Manage your daily symptoms and know when to take which medications
- Control your asthma over time
- Handle an asthma flare-up or attack
- Know when it's time to see your doctor or seek emergency care
The action plan typically has two parts: information about you and a scale to measure and track your symptoms.
Part One: You
This section should have your full name, date the action plan was developed, and emergency contact details. It should list the names and phone numbers of your doctor, allergist or asthma specialist (may be a pulmonologist, allergist or immunologist). If you use a peak flow meter, write down your personal best peak air flow. You may also list your triggers. Sometimes your doctor will sign this section so others know it's been seen and approved.
Part Two: The Three Zones
The asthma scale is based on three "zones":
The green zone means you're doing well. You are not coughing, wheezing, having trouble breathing or feeling tightness in your chest. You can work and are sleeping well. Your peak flow meter, if you use one, should be 80 percent or greater of your personal best peak flow.
This zone, developed with your doctor, includes your asthma control and maintenance medications by name, how much to take and when to take them. When your asthma is in this zone, continue to take your medications as usual.
The yellow zone means you're getting worse. It may be hard to breathe, or you may be coughing, wheezing or have a tight chest. Your usual activities may be setting off your symptoms. You may wake at night with symptoms. Your peak flow might register at 50 to less than 80 percent of your personal best.
This zone should instruct you to continue your green zone medicines and add your quick-relief medicines, unless your doctor says otherwise. This zone includes these medicines by name, how much to take and when and how often to take them.
The yellow zone includes information about whether you need to add or increase medication or call your doctor. If you stay in the yellow zone, ask your doctor for individual instructions about duration (most often it's if you're not back in the green zone after an hour). Your plan will tell you which actions to take. Even if you return to the green zone within the specified time, your plan should tell you if there are any changes you need to make to your regimen or if you need to call your doctor.
The red zone means a medical alert. Get immediate help! Your peak flow is below 50 percent of your personal best. Symptoms may be one or more of the following: extreme shortness of breath or working harder to breathe; inability to perform usual activities, or asthma medicine that isn't working anymore. Your plan will advise to use your quick-relief medicines until you get help. It will also tell you if you need to do anything differently with other medications, and whom to call. Be aware that if you can't reach anyone by telephone right away, seek emergency medical care IMMEDIATELY. Please note, if you can't walk or talk due to shortness of breath or if you lips or fingernails are blue or gray, call 911!
Keep copies of your plan at home and work. Review it with your doctor regularly. Your symptoms and response to medications may change over time. With an asthma action plan, you may be able to breathe easier in more ways than one.
Created on 02/12/2009
Updated on 04/28/2014
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Asthma. Asthma action plan.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Expert panel report 3 (EPR3): Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of asthma.
- American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. Asthma action plan.