You are the most important member of your asthma management team. You play the key role in monitoring your asthma daily and taking your medications. An asthma action plan puts you in control. It is a set of instructions you work out with your doctor for everyday management, plus what to do if your asthma gets worse. The asthma action plan is especially important for moderate or severe asthma.
An asthma action plan helps you:
- Identify symptoms of an asthma attack early
- Know when and how to take your asthma medications
- Keep track of how well you are responding to treatment
- Know when to call your doctor or go to the emergency room
What your action plan may include
An asthma action plan often includes two parts: information about you and a set of instructions based on color "zones."These two parts help with daily management of asthma and how to recognize and handle worsening asthma.
The information portion includes:
- Your asthma triggers. List what sets off an asthma attack. These may be similar to allergy triggers, such as pollen, dust, or animal fur. Or it may be cold air or exercise. Yours may be different.
- Your personal best. This is the best effort you can make to blow air out of your lungs. The number is based on peak flow readings. A peak flow meter is a hand-held device used to measure how well you can blow air out of your lungs after taking a maximum inhalation. You establish your personal best in the doctor's office. Every day you compare your peak flow result with the personal best.
- Your doctor's name and contact information. It should also include phone numbers for the emergency room and a person or service to take you quickly for medical care.
The color zones include your asthma symptoms and sets of instructions on what to do when the asthma is under control or when it is getting worse. They are:
- Green zone (also known as the "safety zone"). In the green zone, you should not have any asthma symptoms. This is the zone you want to live in every day. It should list the specific name of the medication you take daily. Keep taking your medication as directed and take actions to avoid your asthma triggers.
- Yellow zone (also known as the "caution zone"). In this zone, asthma symptoms are getting worse. That may mean you are coughing and wheezing, among other symptoms. Decide with your doctor what your unique "caution zone" symptoms are and what to do about them. It should include what medications you should take for these symptoms. And follow your doctor's instructions for these medications.
- Red zone (also known as the "danger zone"). This means that your symptoms are much worse. It should include what symptoms and peak flow readings indicate the need for immediate medical care. Follow the doctor's red zone medication orders. Go to the hospital, or call 9-1-1 for an ambulance depending on the severity of your symptoms.
There are different versions of asthma action plans. Here is a sample asthma action plan from the National Institutes of Health.
Talk to your doctor about developing your own asthma action plan with your unique set of asthma triggers, personal best peak flow numbers, and medication instructions.
Once you create your asthma action plan, remember to:
- Keep it handy. Keep a copy where you will see it at home and at work.
- Review it with your doctor on a regular basis. Asthma symptoms and your need for medications can change over time. Follow-up visits are a good time to see how you've been doing. You can also review your self-management skills, such as using the inhaler or taking your own peak flow.
Work with your doctor to set up your asthma action plan and take charge of asthma management. This information can help you feel more in control of your disease and help prevent complications and hospital visits.
Created on 02/12/2009
Updated on 02/04/2013
- American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Asthma facts.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. National Asthma Education and Prevention Program expert panel report 3: guidelines for the diagnosis and management of asthma.
- Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement. Health care guideline: diagnosis and management of asthma.
- American Lung Association. Take control of your asthma.