Everyone living with asthma should have a complete, up-to-date Asthma Action Plan. It is a written document that lays out your detailed plan for controlling your asthma.1,2 They key parts of the plan include:
Information about your daily asthma medicines, including the names and dosages for each of your medicines and when you need to take them
Instructions about when to call your healthcare provider and when to go to the emergency room
Contact information for your emergency contacts, healthcare providers, and the nearest hospitals and/or urgent care centers
Everyone’s Asthma Action Plan is unique. By working with your healthcare provider, you’ll create a plan that is customized just for you.
What are the different Asthma Action Plan zones?
Most Asthma Action Plans are divided into three “zones”: green, yellow, and red. These are used to help you treat and control your asthma in different situations.1
Being in the green zone means that you feel well and have no asthma symptoms. In the green zone, you should be sure to keep taking all of your long-term asthma control medicines, even though you don’t have any symptoms (this is important for helping to prevent attacks). For example, an Asthma Action Plan Green Zone description might read3:
Green Zone: Doing Well
No cough, wheeze, chest tightness, or shortness of breath during the day or night
Can do usual activities
If you are in the yellow zone, it means that you have symptoms of asthma. Your plan will provide instructions about how to use your quick-relief medications (also called rescue inhalers) to make sure that the symptoms do not get worse and lead to an asthma attack. For example, an Asthma Action Plan Yellow Zone description might read3:
Yellow Zone: Asthma Is Getting Worse
Cough, wheeze, chest tightness, or shortness of breath, or
Waking at night due to asthma, or
Can do some, but not all, usual activities
Being in the red zone means that you are having severe symptoms or an asthma attack. If this happens, you should follow the instructions in your plan right away to try and control your symptoms with your medications. If your symptoms do not improve quickly, then you should seek emergency care immediately. Your action plan will have all the information about the steps you need to take in an emergency. For example, an Asthma Action Plan Red Zone description might read3:
Red Zone: Medical Alert!
Very short of breath, or
Quick-relief medicines have not helped, or
Cannot do usual activities, or
Symptoms are same or get worse after 24 hours in Yellow Zone
There are different ways to figure out what your own personal Action Plan zones are. For example, your healthcare provider may advise you to keep track of your symptoms (in the daytime, the nighttime, and during activities). In other cases, your healthcare provider may ask you to keep track of your “peak flow rate,” which is a test that measures how well your lungs are functioning. By monitoring your symptoms and/or your peak flow measurements, you and your healthcare provider can create and update your action plan based on your specific needs.
Where can I find more resources about Asthma Action Plans?
Your healthcare provider may recommend that you work together to create a specific type of Asthma Action Plan, but there are also many resources and materials available online. For a list of available plans suitable for printing, see: http://www.cdc.gov/asthma/tools_for_control.htm
American Lung Association. Create an Asthma Action Plan. Accesed March 22, 2016. Available at http://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/asthma/living-with-asthma/managing-asthma/create-an-asthma-action-plan.html
Centers for Disease Control. Asthma Action Plan. Accessed March 22, 2016. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/asthma/actionplan.html
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Asthma Action Plan. Accessed March 22, 2016. Available at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/lung/asthma_actplan.pdf