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What is an Asthma Action Plan?

What is an Asthma Action Plan? What is an Asthma Action Plan?

​By: Sheila Razdan, MD​, MPH

You may have been given an asthma action plan for your child after a doctor's office visit, a trip to the emergency department, or after your child was hospitalized. Ideally, everyone with asthma should have one.

An asthma action plan is designed to help families manage a child's asthma. The goal is to prevent asthma emergencies by preventing and controlling flare-ups.

Because asthma affects people differently, asthma action plans are personalized for your child. While every asthma action plan looks a little bit different, they all include the same major parts.

Create an asthma action plan for your child

Download this ​asthma action plan ​so you and your pediatrician can personalize it for your child. Save and print it for your records. Be sure to share it with your child's school and anyone else who cares for your child.​​

Generally, asthma action plans include a list of the medications taken, early warning signs for asthma symptoms, and instructions on when to use the medicines and call your health care provider. ​

​The asthma action ​plan format

  • Your child's asthma action plan will be divided into a traffic light format:

    • Green means go! This is your child's everyday plan.

    • Yellow means proceed with caution - this is for when your child isn't feeling quite right. Still follow everything in the green zone, but add on other options.

    • Red zone means danger! This is urgent, when your child needs medications quickly and fast medical attention to prevent symptoms from getting even worse.

  • Contact information: Every Asthma Action Plan should have information about your child, including name and family contact information. It should also have the name and phone number for the doctor who takes care of your child's asthma, whether it's your pediatrician or a lung doctor.

  • Peak Flow: Depending on your child's age, there may be a number written on the top of your asthma action plan. This number measures how hard your child can breathe out when feeling healthy on a peak flow machine. It is a good way to see if your child's breathing effort is normal.

The zones

  • Green Zone: Every Day

    • The green zone represents what you should do when your child is feeling completely normal. This is what to do when your child is breathing comfortably, sleeping through the night, not having any coughing or wheezing, and can play just like other kids. It means your child's peak flow range is normal.

    • Your child's daily controller medication will be listed here, along with how much to take and when to take it. This is the medication that your child should take every day. Examples include inhaled steroids or anti-allergy medication.

    • Some children have exercise-induced asthma, or asthma symptoms that flare up when they exercise or play actively. For children with this issue, medicine they need to take before exercise will also be listed in the Green Zone.

  • Yellow Zone: First signs of illness

    • This yellow zone is for when your child may be starting to get sick and is at risk of having an asthma flare. Symptoms include: cough or cold symptoms, some wheezing, having a known trigger for a flare (like change in weather), coughing at night, or having a tight chest or belly pain (little kids have a hard time knowing if they are having belly pain or chest pain). The peak flow range listed will be less than normal.

    • Your child will need to take all of their Green Zone medication PLUS the medication listed in the Yellow zone. The Asthma Action Plan will include how much of the medicine to take and how often.

    • Your asthma action plan will also list when to call your child's doctor if the symptoms are not improving or getting worse.

  • Red Zone: This is urgent!

    • This red zone is for when your child is sick and their asthma flare is dangerous: medicine is not helping, you notice your child is breathing hard and/or fast, you can see your child's ribs while they are breathing, your child's nose is opening wider when they breathe (called “nasal flaring"), or your child cannot talk because they are having a hard time breathing. The peak flow range listed will be low.

    • Call your doctor immediately! If it is after the office is closed, go to the emergency department or call 911 if you cannot take your child there yourself.

    • You should also give all the Green Zone medications AND whatever rescue medications are in your Red Zone. Your asthma action plan will also include how much of the medicine to take and how often. It may be a higher dose of the Yellow Zone medication that you also give more frequently.

Remember

If you have any questions about the asthma action plan, or you do not have one but think your child could benefit, please talk with your child's pediatrician.

More information

​About Dr.​​ Razda​n

Sheila Razdan, MD, MPH, Chief Resident i​​n Pediatrics at St. Louis Children's Hospital, is a member of the Missouri Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Follow her at @SheilaRazdan​.


Last Updated
1/19/2021
Source
American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2021)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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