The purpose of an asthma action plan is to help people with asthma avoid an ER visit or hospitalization if asthma symptoms flare. The plan allows them to manage symptoms and recognize signs of worsening asthma.

If you have asthma, your plan will help you to recognize your daily management of asthma. At the American Lung Association, we use three colors to indicate the state of your asthma.

  • Green indicates that you have no asthma symptoms and should continue routine management of your asthma.
  • Yellow indicates worsening asthma symptoms and gives steps for self-management.
  • Red indicates severe asthma symptoms requiring emergency attention, with instructions on what to do and who to contact.

The plan also functions as a reminder of your daily medications and your emergency medications. An asthma action plan can be your lifeline.

Every individual with asthma needs an action plan. Everyone deserves to know what to do in case their asthma flares. Having a written reminder is key to decreasing asthma exacerbations and hospitalizations.

Yes. Every person with asthma needs an action plan. Even mild asthma can flare up in the presence of different triggers, such as environmental exposures, pets, dust, cigar smoke, or exercise, among many others.

Not all triggers can be avoided, and you should know what to do when symptoms flare up. The plan will also give you early warning signs like variations in peak flow, a measure of the volume of airflow out of your lungs using a tool called a peak flow meter.

You can go to American Lung Association and learn how to create an asthma action plan. There are great examples and step-by-step instructions.

Your plan will include:

  • your asthma triggers
  • the dose and type of your medications
  • symptoms that indicate an asthma flare-up
  • symptoms that indicate an asthma flare-up requiring urgent medical care
  • contact details for your doctor, local hospital, and emergency contact

Your doctor should help you develop an asthma action plan. They’ll go through it step by step with you.

The most important pieces in an asthma action plan are your individual instructions for what to do if you fall into the yellow or red zone. Self-management is important in responding to worsening symptoms.

What will also be unique to you are your specific asthma triggers. You can learn to recognize and manage triggers, such as:

  • exercise
  • environmental factors (pollution, smoke, mold, dust, mites)
  • allergens (pollen, pets)
  • cleaning products
  • viruses
  • stress

I always tell my patients to carry a copy of their asthma action plan in their wallet or purse, post another copy on their refrigerator, and give a copy to important people in their lives, such as their:

  • partner
  • roommate
  • co-worker
  • child’s teacher or caretaker
  • anyone else they spend time with who might help them deal with an asthma attack

Keep your plan handy. Store it in your wallet or purse, on your refrigerator, and with anyone you spend a lot of time with. An asthma action plan might just help to save your life.

Juanita Mora, MD, is an allergist/immunologist in Chicago with a strong interest in asthma care and breaking down barriers to asthma care in underserved communities. Dr. Mora runs the Chicago Allergy Center, is a clinic partner with the American Lung Association in Chicago, Illinois, and has published research on allergic diseases and asthma in the Journal Clinical Immunology and the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.