Reviewed by Ann Mullen, RN, CNS, AE-C, CDE
An Asthma Action Plan is a written, customized plan to help you manage asthma episodes. You or your child’s asthma action plan is based on changes in asthma symptoms. Peak flow numbers may also be part of the asthma action plan.

The asthma action plan will give you information about when and how to use long-term control medications and quick-relief medications. If you know what to watch for and what steps to take, you will be able to make timely and appropriate decisions about managing asthma.

Your action plan should include the following information:

  • Asthma Symptoms - Asthma symptoms to watch for include, coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness. Your asthma action plan should tell you what to do when you awaken at night with asthma symptoms and when you need to increase treatments to manage asthma symptoms. Your asthma action plan will be based on the severity or seriousness of these symptoms.

  • Peak Flow Numbers and Peak Flow Zones - You may also use a peak flow meter. Peak flow numbers measure how well you are breathing. If your peak flow number drops, it means you are having trouble breathing. Peak flow zones can be used to signal you when your peak flow drops a certain percentage. Your health care provider help you determine your zones.

  • Asthma Medications - Some asthma medications are taken every day. These are long term control medications. Some medications are increased when your asthma gets worse. There are some medications that should only be taken when you are having an asthma episode. These are quick relief medications. Together with your health care provider, you will develop instructions about when to take asthma medications.

  • Emergency Telephone Numbers and Locations of Emergency Care - Your written asthma action plan should include information about who to call and where to get emergency care. Your health care provider will be able to give you telephone numbers and locations for emergency care during the day or night. You should also write down numbers of relatives, friends and other people who can help you in an emergency.

It is very important to understand that you should seek medical attention (doctor’s office or emergency room) when your child is not responding to treatment at home. Your child’s care in the doctor’s office or emergency room may seem similar to what you were doing at home. The difference is that the child is receiving close medical supervision. Oxygen by nasal tubing or mask may be needed. There may be repeated nebulizer treatments and simple breathing tests (spirometry or peak flows) to check response to the treatments. If breathing tests are not significantly improved, medical personnel may start an intravenous solution of medications. Steroid therapy is necessary in these episodes. Hospitalization (overnight or longer) may be required for some episodes.

A severe episode of asthma that requires such intensive treatment does not clear up right away. Your child will likely need to continue extra medications for a period of time. It is very important that your child take medications on schedule and use the peak flow meter as instructed by your doctor.

 

Making Your Asthma Action Plan Work for You

Your action plan can help you manage your asthma symptoms. Copy your written asthma action plan and give it to those who can assist you in using the plan. People who should have a copy of the action plan could include; spouses, relatives and school personnel. Keep a current action plan with you at all times for use in an emergency.

Review your action plan with your health care provider at least once a year. Your asthma action plan may need to be changed or updated. Changes in your personal best or baseline peak flow number or medications may mean your action plan also needs to be changed. If you have questions or concerns about your action plan, please discuss them with your health care provider.

Make your asthma action plan work for you!  Keep it available and keep it current!

View an example Asthma Action Plan (pdf).

 

The specific asthma action plans for kids include:

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