Do You Need an Asthma Action Plan?

Health Minute     Spring 2019

When you have asthma, an asthma action plan helps you and others know what to do if your asthma worsens. Follow these three steps to create your action plan.

What Is an Asthma Action Plan?

An asthma action plan is a personalized list of instructions to help you prevent and treat asthma flare-ups. You can consider it a contract between you and your doctor for managing asthma. The contract is written and it spells out several different issues that you need to pay attention to in order to control your asthma.

Your asthma action plan lists crucial information about you and your asthma. It can be used at home and outside of the home, so you and others know what signs to watch for in relation to your asthma triggers and symptoms.

The four cardinal signs of asthma are cough, chest tightness, shortness of breath and wheezing. Worsening of those four cardinal signs usually indicates that you are going to need some type of intervention, whether it be in the doctor's office or in the emergency room. 

What Does an Asthma Action Plan Look Like?

An asthma action plan is typically a one-page paper form. The most common approach uses a green-yellow-red light program. You and your doctor work together to track your peak flow measurements (your ability to push air out of your lungs), as measured by a peak flow meter. You then record your those measurements on your asthma action plan in one of three sections:

  • Green – Means you are good to go; you should continue taking your preventive asthma medication.
  • Yellow – Indicates caution; you should take your quick-relief medicine and consider calling your primary care doctor.
  • Red – Means danger; you need to get help either by visiting your doctor or possibly an emergency room.

This helps both you and others know when and how to act should you begin having an asthma flare-up.

An asthma action plan is a personalized list of instructions to help you prevent and treat asthma flare-ups.

The action plan also lists medications you take for your asthma, triggers, as well as doctor and emergency contact information.

Who Needs a Copy of my Asthma Action Plan?Do You Need an Asthma Action Plan - In Content

An asthma action plan tracks environmental factors that make your asthma worse, how to handle asthma attacks, how to take your medications, and what to do in an emergency. If you are the parent of a child with asthma, share your child’s asthma action plan with anyone who helps care for your child, including:

  • Daycare or school staff, including teachers and school nurse
  • Coaches
  • After-school program coordinators
  • Day camp or residential camp staff

Also, keep a copy on the fridge at home for use by grandparents, neighbors and babysitters.

If you don’t already have an asthma action plan, work with your doctor to start creating one now. Several action plan forms are available online to download. Talk to your doctor about who to share it with and how often to update it.