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Take Action Against Asthma with an Asthma Action Plan

Asthma image

If you have asthma, you and your healthcare provider should develop an asthma action plan that gives specific instructions for early treatment of your asthma symptoms. An asthma action plan is a written, individualized worksheet that shows you the steps to take to prevent your asthma from getting worse. It also provides guidance on when to call your healthcare provider or when to go to the emergency room right away.

Your asthma action plan should include

  • Your name
  • Emergency contact information
  • Contact information for your healthcare provider
  • Your asthma severity classification
  • A list of triggers that may cause an asthma attack

Your healthcare provider will use your personal best peak flow rate to calculate the zones in your asthma action plan.

Asthma Zones
An asthma action plan is divided into three zones: green, yellow, and red. The green zone is where you want to be on a daily basis. In this zone, you have no asthma symptoms and you feel good. Continue to take your long-term control medicines, even if you’re feeling well.

The yellow zone means that you are experiencing symptoms. This is where you should slow down and follow the steps for early treatment of asthma symptoms, including using your quickrelief medicine to keep your asthma from getting worse.

The red zone means you are experiencing severe asthma symptoms or an asthma flare-up. Follow the steps of your asthma action plan, and get immediate medical treatment if your symptoms do not improve.

You should work with your healthcare provider to determine your zones. Your asthma action plan can be based on peak flow rate or asthma symptoms:

♦ Peak Flow Rate Peak flow monitoring is recommended for people with moderate to severe asthma. Your peak flow rate can show if your asthma is getting worse, even before you feel symptoms. Your peak flow rate is measured with a peak flow meter. To use your peak flow rate to determine the zones on your asthma action plan, first you will need to spend some time determining your personal best. Your personal best is the highest peak flow number you achieve in a two- to threeweek period. Your healthcare provider will use your personal best peak flow rate to calculate the zones in your asthma action plan.

♦ Symptoms Another way to monitor your asthma control is to track your symptoms. Common asthma symptoms that indicate there is a problem include daytime symptoms (cough, wheeze, or chest tightness), a decrease in activity level (working, exercising, or playing), and nighttime symptoms.

Your asthma action plan will also include your medicines and instructions for what to do when you are feeling well, what to do when you have asthma symptoms, and what to do when your asthma symptoms are getting worse. It should include the names of your medicines, how much to take, and when to take them. The dose and frequency may change depending on your asthma zone.

♦ Long-term control medicines (also called controller, maintenance, or antiinflammatory medicines) help prevent asthma symptoms by controlling the swelling in your lungs and decreasing mucus production. These medicines work slowly but help control your asthma for hours. They must be taken regularly (even when you don’t have asthma symptoms) in order to work.

♦ Quick-relief medicines (also called rescue medicines) relieve or stop asthma symptoms once they have started. These medicines are inhaled, and they work quickly to relax the muscles that tighten around your airways. When the muscles relax, your airways open up and you breathe easier. Quick-relief medicines can be used before you exercise to avoid asthma symptoms.

What to Do in an Emergency
The red zone of your asthma action plan tells you the steps you need to take in an emergency situation. This portion of your plan should include emergency telephone numbers for your doctor, emergency department, rapid transportation, and family or friends to call for support.


If you have questions about your lung health, contact the American Lung Association’s Lung HelpLine at (800) 586-4872 to speak with a lung health expert.

Source: American Lung Association,

This article was originally published in Coping® with Allergies & Asthma magazine, March/April 2013.