ASTHMA is a chronic lung disease that makes it hard for air to move in and out of your lungs. People with asthma have sensitive airways and can be bothered by things like dust and pollen that don’t bother other people. Asthma can cause changes to your airways too, making them narrower and harder to breathe through.
Asthma is triggered by things in the air like dust or smoke or can be caused by excessive physical activity or even laughing. An asthma attack or episode is when the body reacts negatively to a trigger. During an attack, three things happen to your airway:
- Inflammation: This is when your airway gets irritated and swollen and limits the airflow from your nose and mouth to your lungs.
- Bronchoconstriction: This is when the muscles around your airway tighten up and constrict the flow of air in and out of your body.
- Increased Mucus: During asthma attacks, the body will increase the mucus in the airway which can clog it.
People with asthma have to deal with it every day, and there is no cure. However, your PCP can help you manage asthma and lead a normal and healthy life. If it is not managed well, it can be life threatening, so it’s important to take care of it and your body by having a Asthma Action Plan.
What is an Asthma Action Plan?
In asthmatic patients, the immune system can trigger an asthma attack any time, so it’s important to have an asthma action plan ready. An asthma action plan is a personal, written form that shows you the steps you need to take to prevent your asthma from getting worse. It also explains what to do if you need to call your doctor or go to the emergency room for worsening symptoms of an asthma attack.
What information is on an Asthma Action Plan?
Because an asthma action plan in unique to you, it will have specific information. Your asthma action plan should have:
- Your specific “triggers,” or the things that irritate your lungs and make your asthma worse
- All of your medicines and their specific names, and any other treatments you use
- Directions for which medicines to take if your symptoms are getting worse
- Symptoms or spirometry measurements that show your asthma is getting worse
- Symptoms or spirometry measurements that show you need immediate and urgent medical attention
- Contact information and phone numbers for your emergency contact, doctor, and local hospital/emergency room
The Asthma Zones on your Asthma Action Plan:
Your asthma action plan is divided into three color-coded parts: a green “safe” zone, a yellow “caution” zone, and a red “get help now” zone. Each zone will list symptoms you might experience and have a spot for your spirometry measurement.
The two ways to track which zone you’re in are your spirometry readings and your symptoms.
Spirometry is a test that doctors use to measure the amount of air you inhale or exhale and the speed you can exhale. This helps doctors determine your lung health and can help them know if your treatments are working or not. It can be used to diagnose asthma, as well as other lung conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or chronic bronchitis.
Learn more about Respiratory Rehabs – Improving Asthma & COPD Patient’s Lives
This test is simple. To perform it, a doctor or nurse will ask you to breathe into a tube connected to the spirometer. They will put a clip on your nose to shut it so you can only breathe through the tube. They will give you instructions on how and when to breathe and write down the results.
The zones will list symptoms to notice and track to see if your asthma is getting worse. These symptoms can include:
- Daytime symptoms (cough, wheeze or chest tightness)
- Problems with activity level (working, exercising or playing)
- Nighttime symptoms (trouble sleeping or breathing at night)
The green zone is where you want to be on a daily basis. The symptoms of the green zone are absent or mild at worst, and you are able to work and go about your day with no issues or symptoms bothering you. It should list when your most recent vaccinations were, and any control or long term medicines you take and the dose. It will also give advice on how to prepare for physical activity or exercise before you do it.
The yellow zone is when your symptoms need attention, but not hospital-level. When you’re in the yellow zone, you need to slow down and check in with yourself about your symptoms and take your quick relief medicine. In the yellow zone of the asthma action plan, there are a list of moderate symptoms:
- Some problems breathing
- Cough, wheeze, or tight chest
- Problems working or playing
- Wake at night
If you are in the yellow zone, there’s directions for what quick relief medicine you should take and the dose. There are also directions for additional control medications your doctor will want you to add to your green zone medicine. Lastly, the yellow zone will tell you that you should feel better 20-60 minutes after your quick relief medicine. If you don’t, and the symptoms stay for 24 hours or get worse, then follow the red zone directions.
The red zone is when you need to get immediate medical attention and call your doctor or go to the emergency room. If you progress past the yellow zone, meaning you followed the plan in the yellow zone and your symptoms did not get better or got worse, then you are having an asthma flare-up. The red zone lists severe symptoms:
- Lots of problems breathing
- Cannot work or play
- Getting worse instead of better
- Medicine is not helping
If you’re in the red zone, there is a list of quick relief medicines to take in emergencies and the dose. There are also instructions for when to call 911 and what to do if your symptoms do not get better.
Why do I need an Asthma Action Plan?
Having an asthma action plan can really make a difference when you are experiencing extreme symptoms. It can be hard to keep track of different medications, when to take them and how much, what symptoms are treatable and what symptoms are life-threatening. Keeping track of all the information you need to know about your asthma in one place is helpful, especially in emergency situations.
At EPIC, we encourage all of our patients to be able to self-manage their conditions. Self Management is when the patient is able to treat and control their asthma on their own, without much help from their doctor outside of clinical work. This gives you more freedom in your everyday life, so it’s important for you to commit to your asthma action plan.
It’s also important to share your asthma action plan with any caregivers or your emergency contacts so they know when you might need assistance or when to go to the hospital.
Your doctor will help you create your asthma action plan, so don’t worry, you don’t have to do it alone. Having an asthma action plan in place will give you confidence with managing your asthma and security in knowing there are specific instructions to help you if something does happen.
Visit your EPIC Provider and create your personalized asthma action plan today! It’s the easiest way to prevent and control your asthma attacks.