Let's Talk Asthma Action Plans

Last updated: January 2020

I'll admit I didn't have an asthma action plan until a few years ago. I didn't think I needed one. I would remind myself that I'm a Respiratory Therapist so I know what I need to do when my asthma flares up.

Getting my Asthma Action Plan

When my asthma crossed into the severe category about 7 years ago, I was still in denial about it. I would tell myself "I'm not a severe asthmatic. Mild to moderate at worst." Even though clinically I was in the most severe category. It wasn't until I started going to a new Pulmonologist that I was given an asthma action plan. At first I thought, "I don't really need this, it's just more of a formality." I smiled and took the paper and went home. I folded it in half and stashed it in the back of my planner.

The next time my asthma was flaring up, I remembered I had it and pulled it out. No matter what medical training I may have, when you can't breathe, it creates an almost unavoidable panic. I was very thankful to have my action plan and to see it all laid out in front of me helped so much. I didn't need to really think about what I needed to do because it was all there on paper.

So what exactly is an Asthma Action Plan?

An Asthma Action Plan is exactly that. A plan for when your asthma acts up. It will tell you exactly what to do when your asthma starts flaring. It gives step by step instructions based on how you feel and peak flow measurements. With the help of your doctor your asthma action plan will be put together. It is set up like a traffic light, with green, yellow and red zones.

Green Zone

Think of the green zone as 'full speed ahead.' Your asthma is stable and controlled without any issues and you're able to easily do regular daily activities. It also has your daily asthma medications and when to take them. You can also add your personal best peak flow measurement and anything 80% or higher is considered to be in the green zone.

Yellow Zone

The yellow zone is when your asthma is starting to acting up. Think of the yellow on a traffic light. It is time to slow down and take action. You are probably coughing, you might be wheezing and your chest is tight. You might be experiencing more asthma symptoms at night that are keeping you awake. The yellow zone will also have your regular medications listed as well as additional ones you will need to add, including rescue inhalers or nebulizer treatments. You can still do some regular daily activities but not all. If you include a peak flow range it would be 50-79%. The yellow zone will also include when to call your doctor and possibly start oral steroids if your rescue/quick relief medications aren't working.

Red Zone

The red zone is when your asthma is acting up severely and you need medical attention immediately. Shortness of breath, difficulty talking and/or walking and your rescue/quick relief medications aren't helping and you are unable to do any of your usual daily activities. Peak flow in this zone will be 50% or less. This is when you need to call your doctor immediately without delay. The red zone will also tell you exactly when you would need to go to the nearest emergency room or call 911.

Talk to your doctor!

An asthma action plan is an essential tool for all asthmatics to have. I have a photo of mine saved on my phone, as well as one on my refrigerator and in my planner. It's a good idea to have your family and close friends become familiar with it as well so they can help you should you need it.
If you don't have one yet, make sure to ask your doctor to help you make one at your next visit. It will help take the guesswork out of what to do when your asthma acts up.

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