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Living with asthma: Make a plan, take action

Asthma is a serious condition. But it doesn’t have to run your life — if you have a plan.

An asthma action plan helps you know how to care for your asthma day to day — and what to do if it gets worse. Following this blueprint may help keep you out of danger and breathing easy.

Plan to take control

You and your doctor should work together to create a plan that meets your specific needs. But many plans have these elements in common:

The basics. It may seem obvious, but be sure your name is on your action plan. Include the names and phone numbers of your emergency contacts and doctors too.

Asthma zones — and action steps. These are the heart of the action plan. They help you stay in charge of your asthma on a daily basis.

Most plans rank symptoms in three zones — green, yellow or red — based on how mild or severe they are. Peak flow rates may be included to help you judge how you’re doing. Your plan will list the actions you should take when you’re in each zone. For example, it should explain when to take your medicines, when to call the doctor and when to go to the emergency room.

Here’s a sample of what it might look like:

Swipe to view plan levels
Zone What to watch for Action steps

GREEN ZONE

All clear — you’re doing well

Symptoms:

  • Breathing well      
  • No coughing, wheezing or chest tightness
  • Doing usual activities without symptoms

Peak flow rate: 

At least 80 percent of your personal best

1. Continue to use long-term control medicines.

YELLOW ZONE

Caution —
your asthma is getting worse

Symptoms:

  • Some difficulty breathing
  • Coughing, wheezing or chest tightness
  • Experiencing symptoms during daily activities
  • Waking at night because of asthma

Peak flow rate:

Between 50 and 79 percent of your personal best 

  1. Continue to use long-term control medicines.
  2. Add quick-relief medicines (also called rescue medicines).
  3. Call your doctor. 

RED ZONE

Medical alert!

 

Symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Other symptoms getting worse instead of better
  • Trouble walking or talking because of symptoms
  • Medicines not helping

Peak flow rate:

Less than 50 percent of your personal best

  1. Take quick-relief/rescue medicines.
  2. Call 911 or seek emergency medical help right away.

Work with your doctor to include which asthma medications to take, how much to take and when to take them. The dose and frequency may change depending on the zone you’re in.

And remember to carry your quick-relief medicine — such as an inhaler — at all times.

Asthma triggers. Avoiding or managing your triggers is a key part of feeling your best. Your action plan may include the things that tend to make your asthma worse — and how to avoid or manage them.

Common triggers include animal dander, dust mites, smoke, pollen, mold, cold air and exercise. Not sure of your triggers? Keeping a diary may help you identify what affects your breathing.

Breathe easier

Talk with your doctor about developing a plan that’s right for you. Then regularly review it together — so you can make changes if needed. If you’re having trouble following it, talk with your doctor.

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