Asthma Action Plans
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 healthcare provider to create a written Asthma Action Plan. You can print a copy of an Asthma Action Plan below and to take 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.
An Asthma Action Plan allows you and your healthcare provider to create a personalized program for managing your asthma. You can use it as a strategy to identify when your asthma may be flaring up and how to manage your asthma when it gets out of control. Studies have shown that having a written agreement with your healthcare provider helps you manage your asthma at home. Print and take this sample action plan with you to your next appointment to start a discussion.
The plan is based on frequency and severity of symptoms and/or results of peak flow monitoring, and sets out how you should adjust your medication depending on how controlled your asthma is.
Green Zone: Total Asthma Control
If your asthma is well-controlled then you are in the Green Zone. Congratulations! 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 needing to use your rescue/ reliever medication three or more times a week for asthma symptoms (except for one dose before exercise if agreed upon by your healthcare provider). You can live your normal lifestyle and continue taking your medications as prescribed and as set out on your Asthma Action Plan. Understand that the controller medications you may be on at this time are controlling your asthma and its symptoms.
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 3 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 – it means your asthma is not totally controlled. This is the zone that most people are in as many people expect to have asthma symptoms. You should be able to manage your asthma so that you are symptom free! If you are in this yellow zone, you need to speak with your doctor to adjust your controller medication.
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 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
- 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
If you’re experiencing asthma symptoms, your asthma is poorly controlled and you require immediate medical attention. See your doctor immediately. If your symptoms are very severe, go to the nearest Emergency Room at your local hospital. Never hesitate to seek emergency help.
The three Zones of Asthma Care can be related to a traffic signal. When Green, you are clear to go. When Yellow, you must proceed with caution and pay attention to what is going on around you. When Red you would be proceeding in a dangerous situation. You never go from Green to Red but you must pass Yellow. This Yellow is your warning area, the time you need to make adjustments to your medication to return to the safe zone of Green.
Having a personalized Asthma Action Plan will allow you to easily identify which zone you are in and what you must do to stay in the Green zone.
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 Asthma Action Plan and your doctor’s advice about how best to manage your asthma.
Do you know the signs of well controlled asthma? With proper management, most people living with asthma can live active, symptom-free lives. Learn more about asthma control here.
Asthma & Allergy HelpLine
Do you have questions about asthma? Contact our free helpline service to be connected with a Certified Respiratory Educator who can provide you with personalized support.
If you’re recently diagnosed or are living with asthma, we have many resources that can help you better understand, and manage your disease. Visit the resources section of our website to get started.