Asthma: Using an Asthma Action Plan

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An asthma action plan is a written plan that tells you what asthma medicine to take every day and how to treat an asthma attack. It can help you make quick decisions in case you can't think clearly during an attack.

Your plan can help you stay active and have fewer problems. It may include:

  • Your treatment goals.
  • A list of your asthma medicines and when to take them.
  • How to treat symptoms before you have an attack.
  • What to do if an attack becomes an emergency, and where to get help.
  • How to measure your peak flow, if your doctor recommends you do this.
  • An asthma diary to keep track of your symptoms and triggers, peak flow, and what medicines you took for quick relief.

Your plan is based on zones defined by your symptoms or your peak flow, or both. It tells you what to do when you're in each zone.

Using an asthma action plan

Using an asthma action plan can help you stay active and have fewer asthma problems. Following your plan is a big step toward controlling your asthma so you can live the life you want.

  • Take the daily medicines as described in your action plan.
    • This can keep asthma under control and help you avoid asthma attacks. It may also help limit long-term lung damage.
  • Watch for patterns in your symptoms.
    • If your doctor recommends it, check your peak expiratory flow as often as your doctor tells you to. For many people this is twice a day, morning and evening. This is a good way to know how well your lungs are working.
    • Use an asthma diary to track your peak flow readings, your symptoms, and your asthma triggers. And if you have an attack, write down what you think triggered it, the symptoms, and what medicine you took for quick relief.
  • Follow your action plan when you are having symptoms.
    • Check yourself for asthma symptoms to know which step to follow in your action plan. Watch for things like being short of breath, having chest tightness, coughing, and wheezing. Also notice if symptoms wake you up at night or if you get tired quickly when you exercise.
    • If your peak flow decreases or you have symptoms, follow your action plan to see what asthma zone you are in. It'll tell you what to do when you are in each zone.

Working with your doctor

Here are some ways to partner with your doctor to keep your asthma under control.

  • Work with your doctor to make an asthma action plan.
    • You and your doctor will make an asthma action plan that outlines the two approaches to taking charge of your asthma:
      • Controlling asthma over the long term. Controller medicine helps reduce the swelling of your airways and prevent attacks.
      • Treating attacks when they occur. The action plan will outline the steps to take and medicine to use to treat asthma attacks.
    • Let your doctor know what you want regarding asthma care. For example, if you are not sure how to use your inhalers, tell your doctor.
    • If you make an asthma action plan for your child, give a copy to the child's school or caregivers and make sure they know how to use it.
  • Have regular checkups with your doctor.

    During checkups, your doctor will ask if your symptoms or your peak flow, or both, have held steady, improved, or gotten worse. You will also be asked if you have asthma symptoms during exercise or at night. This information can help your doctor know if the severity of your asthma symptoms has changed or if you need to change medicines or doses.

    When you go to the doctor:

    • Take both your asthma action plan and your asthma diary. Get answers to any questions you have about your asthma plan or your symptoms.
    • Let your doctor know if treatment is not controlling your asthma symptoms.
    • Take your peak flow meter (if you use one) and your medicines so your doctor can review your treatment and the way you use the meter and medicines.
    • Make sure you know how and when to call your doctor or go to the hospital.
    • Tell your doctor if you are not able to follow your action plan.

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Current as of: November 13, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board: All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.