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What to Include in Your Asthma Action Plan

What to Include in Your Asthma Action Plan

Having a detailed strategy is crucial to helping you manage your asthma.

If you’ve been diagnosed with asthma, the most important thing you can do is make a plan—an asthma action plan. Having your treatment and symptoms written down in one place can help you figure out the best course of action to take during an asthma attack. It can also help a loved one determine if you need help.

What to include
Each plan starts with the basics: your name and vital information, as well as the name and phone number of your doctor. If possible, you should also include the name and phone number of your closest or preferred hospital and your emergency contacts.

Some plans will have spaces where you can describe the severity of your asthma, potential triggers and your personal best reading from your peak flow meter, if you use one. Your plan will also list all of your medications and their corresponding dosages, as well as when and how you should take each of them.

Your three action zones
An asthma action plan includes three zones: green, yellow and red.

The green zone is where you outline your treatment for when your asthma is under control. Write down the names of your medications, how much to take and how often you take them when healthy. You can also outline your asthma treatment before or during physical activity. If you use a peak flow meter, write down the number that is 80 percent or more of your personal best peak flow.

The yellow zone is your treatment plan for when your asthma is worsening, such as when you experience chest tightness, coughing, wheezing, waking up at night and inability to do some of your regular activities. Write down the number that is between 50 and 80 percent of your personal best peak flow here, so you can have an idea if you are within this zone.

You should also write down the names of your quick-relief medications and their dosages, along with any control medications that are not included in your green zone. If it’s been 20 to 60 minutes after taking your quick-relief medication and your asthma has not improved, or if you are in the yellow zone for more than 24 hours despite following your plan and taking the proper medication, it’s time to move to the next step. That means following the instructions in the red zone.

Be sure to tell someone what is going on and have them call your healthcare provider (HCP) for you right away.

You should follow the red zone treatment plan when you are having serious problems breathing, when you cannot do work or activities, your symptoms are getting worse and medicine is not helping. In this zone, your peak flow is less than 50 percent of your personal best reading. This section of your action plan provides another space for you to write down details and dosages of your quick-relief medication that you may need in an emergency.

When to seek emergency help
Even if you follow your asthma treatment plan, there may be times when you have to seek medical attention—typically once you have moved into the red zone. Call 911 if:

  • You cannot get through to your doctor
  • You are having trouble walking or talking due to shortness of breath
  • Your lips or fingernails are turning blue
  • You have been in the red zone for 15 minutes

To get started on your plan today, download a template from a trusted source such as the American Lung Association or the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Take it to your next doctor’s appointment so you can fill it out fully and accurately. Be sure to update your asthma action plan if your condition or your medications change. Finally, keep it in a location where you and loved ones can easily find it as a reminder to stick to your treatment plan.

Medically reviewed in October 2020.

Sources:

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. "Asthma Action Plan." Published September 2015.
American Lung Association. "Create an Asthma Action Plan." Published August 13, 2020.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. "Asthma Action Plan." Published January 2007.

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