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Asthma

Everything You Need To Do To Treat Asthma

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Updated December 31, 2010

7. Develop An Asthma Action Plan

An asthma action plan is a plan based on values obtained with a peak flow meter. A peak flow meter is a hand-held device that every asthmatic should have in order to measure their lung function at home. If a drop of a certain amount of lung function occurs on the peak flow meter, an asthmatic can follow certain instructions on the action plan to better manage their asthma. A person’s doctor should prescribe the asthma action plan – this is not a “one size fits all” plan.

First, determine your “best” peak flow. Using a peak flow meter takes some practice. The device should be tried for many days before a “best value” is determined. Be sure to use a consistently best value – not one very high value that was only achieved on one occasion.

Next, take 80% of the best value (multiply best peak flow by 0.8). This represents the lower end of the person’s “green zone”. Some peak flow meters come with colored dials (green, yellow, red, as in the colors of a stoplight), and can be set depending on the person’s lung function.

Next, take 50% of the best value (multiply best peak flow by 0.5). This represents the upper end of a person’s “red zone”. The values between 80 percent and 50 percent would then represent a person’s “yellow zone”.

Once the zones are set, it is recommended that a person with asthma check their peak flow values at least a few times per week, and more often if asthma symptoms are occurring. An asthma action plan can help determine when you need to see your doctor (generally, the earlier, the better), as to prevent the need for emergency room visits or hospitalizations for asthma.

The following is a sample asthma action plan; a person should see their personal physician so that a specific plan can be developed.

Green zone (greater than or equal to 80% of best peak flow):

  • In general, this means that your asthma is stable. See your doctor if asthma symptoms are frequent.
  • Take controller medications as prescribed.
  • It is OK to use rescue inhaler if needed.

Yellow zone (Between 50 percent and 80 percent of best peak flow):

  • Use caution! Your asthma is starting to get worse.
  • Use rescue medicine as prescribed and re-check your peak flow in 10-15 minutes
  • If not in the green zone after re-check, repeat use of rescue inhaler every 4 to 6 hours, with frequent checking of peak flow values
  • If peak flows remain in yellow zone for more than 24 hours, contact your doctor!
  • Your doctor may give you additional instructions for the yellow zone.

Red zone (less than 50 percent of best peak flow):

  • Stop what you are doing! You may be having a severe asthma attack!
  • Use rescue medicine as prescribed and re-check your peak flow in 10 to 15 minutes
  • If peak flow is still in the red zone, repeat first step for a total of 3 times
  • If peak flow is still in the red zone, this is a MEDICAL EMERGENCY – GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM or call 911 NOW!
  • If peak flow increases into the yellow zone, follow yellow zone instructions and notify your doctor that your peak flows were in the red zone
  • Your doctor may give you additional instructions for the red zone.

8. See Your Doctor Often For Your Asthma

People with asthma should see their doctor for “healthy visits” every 6 months (meaning that their asthma is stable and not causing them problems). Visits should occur more frequently as needed to get asthma under better control or if the person becomes sick. Visits should also occur every 2 to 6 weeks if asthma medications are started or stopped, or if the dosages are increased or decreased, to ensure that the person’s asthma is stable with the change in treatment.

By following the above, a person with asthma should have a good understanding of their disease process, and should be able to achieve good control of their asthma symptoms.

Sources:

National Asthma Education and Prevention Program Expert Panel Report 3. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute/National Institutes of Health. Website Accessed December 30, 2010.

Practice Parameters for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Asthma. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1995;96:S707-870.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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