The Asthma Society of Canada
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About Asthma
What Is Asthma?
How to Tell if You Have Asthma
Who Gets Asthma?
Common Asthma Triggers
What to Expect if You Have Asthma
What to Do if Your Asthma Worsens
Taking Control
Resources & Support
About Asthma

What to Do if Your Asthma Worsens

When you have asthma, your symptoms can vary from time to time and situation to situation. It can be difficult to know when changes in your symptoms are normal, and when they might mean trouble.

That's why it is recommended that you work with your doctor to create a written asthma action plan. You can find an example of one here. Print it out and take it with you to your next doctor's appointment. Together, you can modify it as needed so that you always know when a change in your symptoms means something serious.

The Three Asthma Zones
The Green Zone The Green Zone: Total Asthma Control

When you're in the green zone, you have no symptoms. You're able to participate in normal activities, including strenuous physical activity. You are able to attend school or work and are sleeping through the night without asthma symptoms. You are not needed to use your reliever medication 4 or more times a week for asthma symptoms (except prior to one dose before exercise).

Being in the green zone means your asthma is totally-controlled. Continue to take your controller medications as directed by your doctor or discuss decreasing the dose if you are in the green zone more than 3 months. Do not stop your controller medication without first talking to your doctor.

The Yellow Zone The Yellow Zone: Warning, loss of control

If you find that any of the following occur, you are in the yellow zone:

  • You have difficulty asthma symptoms during regular activities or exercise.
  • Your asthma symptoms begin to disturb your sleep.
  • You get a cold or other chest infection.
  • You need to take your reliever medication 4 or more times a week.
  • You have missed work or school due to asthma symptoms.

If you are in the yellow zone, talk to your doctor. Your doctor will modify your medications.

The Red Zone The Red Zone: Emergency


Most asthma attacks are not sudden, and can be treated while in the yellow zone. However, if your are experiencing the following severe asthma symptoms, you are in the red zone and you need to get medical attention immediately. Make sure you recognize red zone signs:

  • Excessive coughing
  • Excessive wheezing
  • Extreme tightness in the chest
  • Extremely laboured breathing
  • Sweating
  • Gasping voice
  • Pale or blue lips or fingernails
  • Anxiety or fear
  • Decreased activity level
  • Reliever medication does not seem to be working to relieve the symptoms

Important Phone Numbers
If any of the above symptoms are present, call your local emergency service immediately. Have the following written down and kept close at hand in case of an emergency:

  • Your doctor's name and phone number
  • local emergency service phone number
  • local ambulance service phone number

At the Emergency Department
If you have to go to the emergency department of a hospital, doctors and healthcare professionals will treat you by:

  • Giving you oral or intravenous corticosteroids
  • Giving you inhaled reliever medication (bronchodilator) and oxygen
  • Assess your progress with spirometry, peak flow monitoring and oximetry

Remember, it's better to be safe than sorry. To delay getting medical help when you're in the red zone can mean unnecessary suffering, even death. Always follow your action plan and your doctor's advice about how best to manage your asthma.

Do You Know Your Triggers?

Learn what things can cause asthma symptoms - and how you can avoid them. Plus, find out why, despite what you might think, you could be more affected by indoor triggers than outdoor triggers.

More > >

Asthma Basics Booklet Series

We developed the Asthma Basics Steps to help you learn about good asthma control. Use these booklets to learn more about asthma diagnosis, triggers and medications, as well to guide your discussions with you doctor, pharmacist and asthma educator.

More > >

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DISCLAIMER: Content on this website is for information purposes only andnot a substitute for a qualified medical professional.
For specific information treatment and management your asthma and/or potential side effects of medications and
treatment, please consult your physician.