An asthma action plan is an individualized guide where a person identifies:
- how they currently treat their asthma
- signs their symptoms are worsening
- what to do if symptoms worsen
- when to seek medical treatment
Keep reading to find out all you need to know to create your plan.
There are several components that every action plan should have in common. These include:
- factors that trigger or worsen your asthma
- specific names of the medications you take for asthma and what you use them for, such as short- or long-acting medication
- symptoms that indicate your asthma is getting worse, including peak flow measurements
- what medications you should take based on the level of your symptoms
- symptoms that indicate when you should seek immediate medical attention
- emergency contact telephone numbers, including your primary care doctor, local hospital, and important family members to contact if you have an asthma attack
Your doctor may recommend that your action plan has three major zones for action, such as:
- Green. Green is the “good” zone. This is when you’re doing well and your asthma doesn’t usually limit your activity level. This section of your plan includes your goal peak flow, the medications you take every day and when you take them, and if you use any special medications before exercise.
- Yellow. Yellow is the “caution” zone. This is when your asthma is starting to show signs of worsening. This section includes the symptoms you experience in the yellow zone, your peak flows in the yellow zone, additional steps or medications to take when you’re in this zone, and the symptoms that indicate you may need to call your doctor.
- Red. Red is the “alert” or “danger” zone. This is when you’re having severe symptoms associated with your asthma, such as shortness of breath, significant activity limitations, or need to frequently use quick-relief medications. Included in this section are danger signs, such as blue-tinged lips; medications to take; and when to call your doctor or seek emergency medical attention.
Asthma plans for children include all the information listed above. But some modifications may help make the plan more user-friendly for children and caregivers. These include:
- Pictures, when possible. You may want to include pictures of each medication or inhaler, as well as and pictures of the identified green, yellow, and red zones on the peak flow meter.
- Consent for treatment: Many children’s asthma action plans include a consent statement that parents sign to allow a school or caregiver to give medications, such as fast-acting medications.
- Symptoms in a child’s words. Children may not describe “wheezing” in these exact terms. Ask your child what certain symptoms mean to them. Write down these descriptions to help you and others best understand what symptoms your child is having.
These are some of the modifications you can make to ensure your child’s asthma action plan is as user-friendly as possible.
An asthma action plan for adults should include the information listed above, but with considerations for when you need help and may not be able to direct people to what you need. Consider including the following:
- Provide directions as to where a person can find your medication in your home if your breathing is so affected that you can’t direct them to it.
- List an emergency contact or healthcare provider to call if you need immediate medical attention and are at the hospital or a doctor’s office.
You may want to give a copy of your asthma action plan to your boss or a human resources manager at your workplace to ensure someone can assist you if needed.
You don’t have to start from scratch when creating an asthma action plan. There are many online resources that can help you create a paper or web-based plan. Here are some places to start:
- American Lung Association (ALA). This ALA page includes downloadable action plans in English and Spanish. There are plans for home and school.
- Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). This AAFA page offers downloadable plans for home, childcare, and school.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
This CDC pageprovides printable, online, and interactive plans, including those translated into Spanish.
Your doctor’s office is also a good resource for asthma action plans. They can work with you to create the best plan for you.
An action plan is a good idea for anyone diagnosed with asthma. Having a plan in place can take the guesswork out of what to do if your asthma worsens. It can also help identify when you’re managing your asthma well.
An asthma action plan should be easily accessible to anyone who may need to use it. Once you create one, it’s a good idea to make several copies and distribute them to caretakers. Consider doing the following:
- Keep one posted on an easily accessible place in your home, such as the refrigerator or a message board.
- Keep one near where you store your asthma medications.
- Keep a copy in your wallet or purse.
- Distribute one to your child’s teacher and add one to your child’s school records.
- Give one to any family member who may take care of you or your child should emergency medical attention be needed.
In addition, you may wish to take photos of each page of the plan and save them on your phone to “favorites.” You can also e-mail the plan to yourself so you’ll always have a copy handy.
An asthma action plan comes with the following benefits:
- It helps you identify when your asthma is well managed, and when it isn’t.
- It provides an easy-to-follow guide as to what medications to take when you have certain symptoms.
- It takes the guesswork out of helping you or a loved one in a school setting or when a caretaker is at your home.
- It ensures that you understand what each prescribed medication does and when you should use them.
When you or a loved one has asthma, it’s easy to sometimes feel panicked or unsure what to do. An asthma action plan can give you added confidence because it has answers for exactly what to do and when to do it.
Talk with your doctor when establishing your asthma action plan. They should review the plan and add any suggestions. Be sure to bring the plan to regularly scheduled checkups.
Other times when you should see your doctor and consider updating your plan include:
- if you’re having trouble maintaining your asthma, such as if you’re often in yellow or red zones of your plan
- if you’re having trouble sticking to your plan
- if you don’t feel like your medications are working as well as they used to
- if you’re having side effects to the medications you’ve been prescribed
If you have concerns about your asthma and action plan, call your doctor. Taking steps to prevent an asthma attack and make note of worsening symptoms is key to managing your asthma.
An asthma action plan can be vital to helping you, caretakers, and your doctor manage your asthma. Many online resources can help you establish your plan. You can also talk to your doctor about unique ways to modify the plan.
Always seek immediate medical attention if you’re experiencing severe asthma symptoms.