Tips for Developing a Personalized Asthma Action Plan

Your asthma action plan is a joint effort between you and your doctor.

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Asthma treatment is two-fold. On one hand, your treatment involves lifestyle changes and possibly controller medicines to keep asthma flares at bay. The other half of the equation is knowing to do if an asthma flare happens—especially if it’s an emergency. Understanding all these pieces may be intimidating, and that’s why it’s important to develop an asthma action plan with your doctor.

“There are many potential medications available to treat asthma. Each patient's asthma treatment plan is individualized based on their symptoms and their history,” says Ekta Perera, MD, allergist-immunologist in New York City. “Patients should contact their doctor and discuss their symptoms as well as their history. [This can help them] develop the individualized treatment plan that can improve their asthma control and prevent flares of symptoms.”

What Is an Asthma Action Plan?

In general, an asthma action plan is an individualized management plan that empowers you to manage your asthma well. Your doctor will include guidelines for daily management, as well as emergency treatment. The plan will show you the symptoms to look out for. It will also provide guidelines for the treatments to deal with symptoms. Check out this asthma action plan template from the American Lung Association.

Not only is an action plan empowering, but it can also reduce stress. Many people with chronic conditions find it challenging or stressful to manage their disease on a daily basis. Having a plan in place for emergencies may improve confidence and relieve some of that stress.

Symptoms to Monitor

Knowing symptoms to monitor, as well as how to handle them, can improve your asthma control. With good asthma control, you may achieve improved quality of life with fewer disruptions from asthma episodes.

Your asthma action plan will likely contain symptoms in colored “zones.” The green zone refers to stable asthma control, and that’s the ideal state. This means you have little need for your rescue inhaler.

“In the yellow zone, which is a caution zone, patients may be experiencing mild chest tightness or mild wheezing,” says Dr. Perera. “Patients should add certain medications to their treatment as recommended by their doctor.”

Most importantly, symptoms in the red zone signify “significant worsening of symptoms that may require immediate attention,” says Dr. Perera. Another sign that you’re in the red zone is if your rescue medicines are not providing relief from an acute asthma flare.

The point of the colored zones of symptoms is to help you know when to take action. When asthma symptoms become serious, it’s important to take quick action and not hesitate about whether it’s an emergency or not.

Sticking to the Plan

“It is important for patients to stick to their asthma action plan because it is an individual treatment plan developed by their doctor based on the doctor's assessment of the patient's symptoms and their history,” says Dr. Perera.

If you have any questions or concerns about your asthma action plan—or how to follow it—talk to your doctor. It’s important that you feel comfortable using your action plan, which can help you achieve good asthma control and a better quality of life.