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Developing an Asthma Action Plan

What Is an Asthma Action Plan?

An asthma action plan is a written plan developed by your doctor or asthma specialist to help you or another family member, including teenagers and children, manage asthma and prevent asthma attacks. The plan is designed to tell you or other family members what to do when there are changes in the severity of asthma symptoms and in peak flow numbers.

How Are Asthma Action Plans Designed?

An asthma action plan gives you and your family important health information that can be used in the event that you or other family members (including teenagers and children) with asthma experience an asthma emergency.

Asthma action plans can be organized in a number of ways. Your asthma action plan may include:

  • A list of asthma triggers that are responsible for asthma symptoms and how to avoid them
  • A list of peak flow meter readings and zones based on the person's personal best reading
  • A list of routine asthma symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, and excess mucus production, as well as what you should do if these symptoms occur
  • The name and dose of the daily asthma medication that needs to be taken even when you don't have asthma symptoms
  • The name and dose of the quick-acting or rescue medication that needs to be taken when you develop asthma symptoms
  • The name and dose of the reliever medication that needs to be taken when you are having an asthma attack
  • Emergency telephone numbers and locations of emergency care
  • Instructions about when to contact the doctor, whom to call if the doctor is unavailable, and a list of where to get emergency asthma treatment.

For convenience, asthma action plans are often broken down into three zones on your peak flow meter: green, yellow, and red. In each zone, your asthma action plan will give you doctor-written instructions on how to handle each circumstance.

  • Green Zone: Where you should be every day -- NO asthma symptoms. You are able to do usual activities and sleep without coughing, wheezing, or breathing difficulties. Peak flow is 80% to 100% of personal best.
  • Yellow (Caution) Zone: This is NOT where you should be. Your symptoms may include coughing, wheezing, and mild shortness of breath. You may have nighttime asthma and daily activities may be disturbed. You may be more tired than usual. Peak flow is 50% to 80% of personal best. Call your doctor if you keep dropping into the yellow zone. The green zone plan may need to be changed to prevent this.
  • Red Zone: Red zone means you need urgent medical care. Your asthma symptoms may include frequent, severe cough, severe shortness of breath, wheezing, trouble talking, walking, and rapid breathing. Peak flow is less than 50% of personal best. If you are gasping for air, have blue lips or fingernails, or are unable to do a peak flow, call 9-1-1.
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