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Treatment & Prevention

What’s an Asthma Action Plan?

What Is It?

An asthma action plan, or management plan, is a written plan that you create with your doctor. The plan is designed to help you take control of your asthma.

Asthma Action Plan

Following an asthma action plan will help you prevent flare-ups and deal with the ones you can’t prevent. Knowing how to deal with flare-ups can keep you from having to go to the ER.

Your doctor may give you an action plan. You also can print out our sample and ask your doctor to help you complete it.

Having a written, step-by-step plan means that you don’t have to memorize everything your doctor said. You can keep a copy with you at all times or choose to memorize key parts of it.

Your asthma action plan will give you clear instructions so you can:

  • avoid triggers that worsen your asthma
  • notice early symptoms of a flare-up and treat them
  • take the right steps to deal with an asthma flare-up
  • know when to seek emergency care

Action Plans Are Individual

Asthma varies from person to person, so there isn’t a one-size-fits-all asthma action plan. But all action plans will say what to do if you have a flare-up. The plan will explain when you need to take your quick-relief medicine, how much to take in different circumstances, and when you need to call the doctor or go to the ER.

Many action plans use a “zone system” based on the colors of a traffic light. They use symptoms (and peak flow readings if you use them) to help you decide what zone your asthma is in:

  • The green zone, or safety zone, explains how to manage your asthma every day, when you’re feeling good.
  • The yellow zone, or caution zone, explains how to look for signs that your asthma is getting worse. It also says which medicines to use to bring your asthma back under control.
  • The red zone, or danger zone, explains what to do when a flare-up is severe.

If you use a peak flow meter, the action plan’s color system makes it easy to figure out which instructions apply to you. You’ll want to put your “personal best” peak flow reading on the plan, so you’ll have something to compare the new numbers with.

In addition to information about flare-ups, your action plan may include:

  • emergency phone numbers and locations of emergency care facilities
  • a list of triggers and how to avoid them
  • things to do before exercising
  • a list of early flare-up signs to watch for — and what to do when they happen
  • the names and doses of all your medicines and when and how to use them

Understand Your Plan

For your asthma action plan to work, you have to follow it even when you feel OK. That means it should make sense to you and fit into your life easily. For example, if exercise is one of your triggers, you need to talk with your doctor about your sport and workouts so the plan takes them into account.

Review your plan with your doctor to make sure you understand it. Ask questions. Talk with your doctor about ideas you have for making the plan work better for you. For example, your doctor might be willing to change the time of day that you take your asthma medicine so it fits into your schedule.

If you’ve been following an asthma action plan but it doesn’t seem to be controlling your asthma as well as it used to, let your doctor know. He or she may need to adjust your medicine or other parts of your plan.

Also tell your doctor if you don’t seem to need your quick-relief medicine as much anymore. If your asthma is well controlled, your doctor might reduce the amount of long-term control medicine you’re taking.

Your asthma action plan is there to make sure your asthma doesn’t get in the way of playing sports, working out, going to parties, or doing whatever you want to do. Use it for good health!

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: January 2014