If you have asthma, an asthma action plan is an important tool that can help you breathe easily and tackle your daily activities while keeping your symptoms under control.
An asthma action plan is a document that outlines which asthma medications you should use routinely and what to do if symptoms get worse. Your plan will probably include medications that you use every day to prevent symptoms, like inhalers, and medication to use as needed when symptoms flare up.
“These plans can help anyone with asthma,” said Tara Carr, MD, an allergy and immunology expert at Banner – University Medical Center Tucson.
Asthma action plans are usually color-coded like a stoplight:
- Green means “Go.” Everything is good.
- Yellow means “Caution.” Something is changing—proceed with caution.
- Red means “Alert! Danger!” Seek care.
How can I create an asthma action plan?
There’s a lot of information to consider when you create your plan, including:
- What type of symptoms you experience
- How frequently symptoms are occurring
- Whether symptoms occur during the day or at night
- Whether you have had attacks that require urgent or emergency medical care
- How well your current medications are working
With this information, your doctor can help you select different medications and doses to use.
Your plan should include the name of the medication, the dosage strength of the medication, and how many times per day it should be used. For example, it might say, “Inhalex inhaler, 100mcg dose, 2 puffs by inhalation every morning and 2 puffs by inhalation every evening.”
Your plan should also describe how to use an inhaler that will treat symptoms. For example, it might say, “Albuterol inhaler, 90mcg dose, 2 puffs by inhalation if needed for asthma symptoms. If your symptoms do not improve, use albuterol again every 4 hours if needed for symptoms that come back.”
Dr. Carr said it’s important for your plan to describe when and where you should seek medical care. For example, it might say, “If symptoms are not improving after 24 hours, or are getting worse, seek emergency medical care.”
What should I do with my asthma action plan?
Keep your plan handy, so you’ll know how to keep your asthma well controlled. Your doctor should keep a copy as well. For children, make sure any caregivers—schools, daycare, babysitters and grandparents—have a copy and know how to use the medications. Your child’s plan should also include contact information for you and your child’s doctors.
Over time, you may need different medications or doses, so you’ll need to update your asthma action plan. “Review your plan with your doctor once a year, or if something changes with your health,” Dr. Carr said. “Guidelines are updated every year based on available data from clinical trials, so the recommendations might change over time.”
The bottom line
An asthma action plan is a good reminder that you may need to take your medication every day to prevent asthma symptoms. With a plan in place, you’ll have helpful guidelines ready, and you’ll know what to do when your asthma is flaring up. In addition, the Banner Health asthma workbook can help you learn about asthma’s effects, control your asthma and find a treatment plan. Download it in English or Spanish.
To help keep your asthma symptoms under control, make an appointment with a Banner Health provider.
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