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What is an Asthma Action Plan?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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An asthma action plan is a written plan which is designed to help people with asthma management. It provides a series of instructions about what to do in various situations which the patient can follow. Having a clearly written and defined plan has been shown to help patients manage asthma more effectively, and the plan can also be useful when interacting with emergency medical services and other medical care providers. Asthma action plans are usually drawn up by the patient and her or his asthma specialist or general practitioner, if the general practitioner is handling asthma management with the patient.

At the top of the asthma action plan, there's a list of contact information for the patient's doctor, local hospitals, emergency services, and family members. This section also includes the patient's name and contact information, so that in the event that there is a problem, all of this information will be readily available.

The next section of the asthma action plan is a discussion about what the patient should do while in the “green zone” of well controlled asthma. When in this zone, the patient is experiencing minimal symptoms, can breathe relatively well, does not need a rescue inhaler, and is comfortable. Green zone actions can include taking daily medications for asthma management and charting peak flow readings.

In the yellow zone section which covers situations in which the patient is starting to experience difficulties, the asthma action plan spells out what to do. The patient may be asked to take several puffs on a rescue inhaler, and to wait for improvement. If symptoms get worse, the patient may be pushed into the red zone, requiring immediate medical attention. While in the red zone, the patient has extreme difficulty breathing and may experience other symptoms such as a bluing of the nails which indicates poor oxygenation. In the red zone, the patient is advised to call emergency services.

Typically, the bottom of an asthma action plan also discusses potential asthma triggers and allergies. This information can be used by the patient to avoid such triggers, and is also a handy record inside the patient's chart. By checking the copy of the asthma action plan in the chart, a doctor can get a quick overview of how well controlled the patient's asthma is, what kind of triggers can cause an asthma attack for the patient, and so forth. This information can be helpful when making decisions about treatment.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By ysmina — On Dec 09, 2014

So is there nothing one can do when in the yellow-red zone, aside calling an ambulance if it seems like the inhaler isn't working?

I've never had this happen but I know that some people have asthma attacks frequently. I guess it's still best to call an ambulance just in case. Waiting is not a good idea as things could become very bad very quickly.

By bluedolphin — On Dec 08, 2014

@fify-- Yes, she must have an action plan. Usually doctors will talk about this and prepare it for their patients. Her doctor should be able to print one out for you. You can just copy that and keep it at home and at her school.

Considering that a large percentage of asthma sufferers are children and also considering how dangerous asthma attacks can be, children need to be educated about their condition thoroughly. They need to recognize when they're symptoms are getting worse and ask for help on time. They also need to learn their triggers so that they can avoid them.

By fify — On Dec 08, 2014

My daughter was diagnosed with asthma recently. She doesn't have an action plan yet but I will speak to her doctor and prepare it right away. She had a mild asthma attack at school the other day. She was fine after using her inhaler but it made me realize that she needs to be better prepared for asthma attacks and emergencies. I will provide a copy of the action plan to her teachers and the school nurse so that they know what to do to help her if she's not well.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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