Step 9: Understand your action plan
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You should ask for a written action plan that explains how to take your medicines and control your asthma. Action plans come in a variety of styles and formats. Sometimes you will get several sets of instructions, other times all of the instructions will be combined into one form. The most important thing is that the instructions should be easy to read and understand.

The zone system

One of the most common action plan formats is the "zone system," which is based on traffic lights:

The GREEN ZONE explains how to manage your asthma on a daily (or regular) basis. In other words, it tells you what drugs to take on normal days when you are feeling good.
The YELLOW ZONE explains signs to look for that your asthma is getting worse. (Signs can include symptoms getting worse, or a drop in peak flow.) The yellow zone tells you what additional drugs/steps to take to bring your asthma back under control.
The RED ZONE explains when to contact a doctor or go to the emergency room.

Your action plan assumes that you are monitoring your own body for signs that your asthma is getting worse. Action plans designed for school can be especially important, so that everyone knows what to do when the asthma gets worse, and all the right medicines and phone numbers are on hand. There are two basic ways to do this:

  • Action plans can be based on the signs and symptoms themselves -- coughing, wheezing, breathing difficulties (such as shortness of breath), and chest tightness. Here is an example of an action plan that includes only the signs.
  • Action plans can be based on your "peak flow." Peak flow is described in the next step. Here is an example of an action plan that includes both signs and peak flow.


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Review Date: 5/16/2007

Reviewed By: Alan Greene, M.D., F.A.A.P., Department of Pediatrics, Packard Children's Hospital, Stanford University School of Medicine; Chief Medical Officer, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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