A January 2017 survey published in “Annals of the American Thoracic Society” concluded that in the management of chronic and persistent asthma, an active partnership between doctor and patient results in better outcomes. This is best achieved by creating and following a daily Asthma Action Plan.
An asthma action plan is a written document that details how to treat a patient’s asthma on a daily basis. This plan should lay out specific guidance on daily treatment regimens, long-term and short-term medications, dosage, managing symptoms, coping with flares and severe episodes that require urgent care.
It should also cover:
- Treatment goals including personal goals about your asthma.
- How to measure your peak expiratory flow (PEF) with a peak flow meter (a portable device that measures ability to push air out of lungs).
- How to control symptoms and prevent asthma emergencies.
- Triggers that worsen asthma
- Tips for reducing risk of symptoms and attacks
- Steps for responding to symptoms
- Indicators that asthma is getting worse
- When to call your doctor
- Instructions for emergencies
Elements of a Successful Asthma Attack Action Plan
- Describe Medication Regimen
Asthma patients take “controller medicines” as prescribed at the same time every day. “Rescue medicines” are used as needed to treat sudden asthma flare-ups. Proper usage of inhalers should be included. The plan should provide alternative solutions if the medications don’t relieve symptoms.
- Asthma Action Zones
The American Lung Association (ALA) has created a color-coded, downloadable action plan template for use by asthma patients for various intensities of attacks. It is based on zones defined by symptoms or peak expiratory flow, or both.
Green zone – SAFE – the aim is to be in this zone everyday. The peak expiratory flow is 80% to 100% of personal best measurement. There should be no asthma symptoms present, and no need for quick-relief medications.
Yellow zone – CAUTION – peak expiratory flow is 50% to 79% of personal best measurement. There may be only mild to moderate or no symptoms. But lung function is reduced. The action plan should state the quick-relief medicines needed with dosage and frequency.
Red zone – DANGER – peak expiratory flow is less than 50% of personal best measurement. Symptoms may be severe with extreme shortness of breath and coughing. Seek medical help immediately
Keep Tabs on Your Symptoms
Being aware of and paying attention to symptoms can help maintain better asthma control over the long term. According to the ALA, adult asthma symptoms might include:
- Tightness in chest
- Shortness of breath even when still
- Reduced peak expiratory flow (PEF)
- Waking up coughing at night
- Trouble walking, talking, or doing normal activities
- Rescue inhaler not helping
- Bluish lips and fingernails
- Exhaustion or confusion
- Skin around ribs appears “sucked in” (especially in children)
- Identifying Asthma Triggers
Your asthma action plan should include the factors that can worsen asthma symptoms, triggers to avoid, and how to be prepared in unavoidable situations. Testing and providing for allergy factors is a prudent step.
- Asthma Essentials
Asthma treatment medications and supplies should be packed and easily accessible at all times. Include a copy of your action plan and any medications needed to control an allergic response. Check expiration dates and replace as needed.
- Maintain an Asthma Log
Take notes every time you notice asthma symptoms and share the log with your doctor. Keeping detailed notes helps identify triggers, and monitors whether asthma control is improving or becoming less effective.
- Asthma Support Task Force
Colleagues, friends and family members can support your asthma management by creating an asthma-friendly environment. They can help in eliminating triggers when you are around and can provide emotional support. They can also step in and perform tasks that may otherwise trigger your asthma. Family members sometimes notice symptoms and can warn of asthma flares.
- Contact List
The ALA’s template has a section to list the names and contacts of essential medical personnel to call in emergencies. Include information and contact details about your pharmacy and hospital. As well as contact information for loved ones or friends who should be notified. These contacts should be in your cell phone, and a printed copy kept by your landline.
- Share Your Emergency Action Plan
Sharing your emergency action plan with key people – doctor, healthcare workers, family members, friends, and co-workers – is important. Your emergency action plan should also include specifics about what to do in an emergency, when to call 911, which medications to take etc.
- Medical Reviews
Consult your GP, specialist or asthma nurse within 48 hours of leaving hospital after an attack, or within 24 hours if you didn’t need hospitalization, to discuss how you can reduce your risk of future attacks.
Talk to your doctor or nurse about any changes to medications or dosage needed.
Have regular, annual asthma reviews with your GP, specialist or asthma nurse.
- Keep your Asthma Action Plan Current.
Medications, doctors, personal triggers, even the state of your asthma are likely to change over time. So periodically review your action plan to ensure it’s still accurate and reflective of your situation and needs.
If you or a loved one suffers from asthma or you simply need more information, call Allergy Tampa today at (813) 971-9743, or use our online appointment request form for expert care and treatment.