For people who have asthma, an asthma action plan is an essential part of successful asthma management.
An Asthma Action Plan that you develop with the help of your doctor can help you act on asthma problems quickly, before they spiral out of control. The action plan helps you recognize when problems are beginning and then to know exactly what steps to take to prevent the problems from getting worse.
The action plan is probably one of the most overlooked tools in asthma management and control. I know I never had one until I started to study and write about asthma a few years ago. No doctor I saw had ever suggested it to me, perhaps because my asthma was not severe. Still, no matter how severe your asthma is, it's really helpful to have a written plan to guide you.
So, what does an effective Asthma Action Plan include? Here are the highlights:
- Three separate "zones", i.e., the Green Zone (asthma under control), the Yellow Zone (asthma control slipping), and Red Zone (danger, take action now!)
- A description of signs and symptoms tied to each zone
- Specific treatments and actions tied to each zone
That's it! You can find many excellent examples of Asthma Action Plans on the Web, by Googling the phrase, "Asthma Action Plan". But here are some of my favorites:
- NY State Department of Health
- American Lung Association
- American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology
Print out one or more of these sample plans and take it to your doctor on your next visit. Ask the doctor to help you fill out the plan correctly.
Now, it's not enough to formulate the plan and then just file it away. It needs to be shared with anyone involved in your care or the care of your child, for example, the school nurse, day care providers, and grandparents. It's also a good idea to bring the Asthma Action Plan to every doctor visit for updating, as needed.
At home, post your action plan where you can see it and find it quickly when problems start to develop. Your plan can help you realize when symptoms are danger signs. It will also guide you to take your quick-relief medicines in a timely fashion.
Of course, the best way to control your asthma is to prevent symptoms from occurring in the first place. And the best way to make that happen is, 1) take your preventive asthma medicines as prescribed and 2) avoid exposure to your asthma triggers, such as pollen, dust, and tobacco smoke, as much as possible.
Also, a peak flow meter is another great tool for staying on top of your asthma. It can help you identify when your airways are becoming inflamed, even before you begin to have noticeable symptoms. A peak flow meter is a small device that measures your ability to breathe out. You can use it at home or in a doctor's office. Check with your doctor to learn if a peak flow meter might be helpful to you in managing your asthma.