According to Canadian asthma experts, everyone with asthma should have a written asthma action plan. Studies show that people who use their asthma action plan have better control of their asthma.
An asthma action plan is a personalized set of instructions from your healthcare provider that guides you with checking if your asthma is under control, such as by monitoring your symptoms like a cough, shortness of breath, chest tightness and wheezing. The plan also helps you to adjust your asthma medications based on your level of control and to decide when to call your healthcare provider or get to a hospital.
A common format is based on the green, yellow and red traffic lights. When you are feeling well and have no regular asthma symptoms, you are in the green “Go: Maintain Therapy” zone. The green zone means your asthma is under control.
When your asthma is starting to get out of control, you are in the yellow “Caution: Step-up Therapy” zone. Follow the instructions to adjust your medications to get you back into the green zone and keep yourself out of the red zone.
When your asthma is getting more out of control or it’s not getting better, you are in the red “Stop: Get Help Now” zone. This is an asthma emergency and you should immediately seek medical attention.
To find out if your asthma is under control, ask yourself these five questions:
- Do I need my reliever inhaler (usually blue) more than three times per week?
- Do I experience symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and/or chest tightness more than three days per week?
- Does asthma limit my ability to exercise or play sports?
- Do I have nighttime symptoms once a week or more?
- Do I miss school or work because of asthma?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, your asthma is not under control. See your healthcare provider to discuss what you can do.
The Lung Association of Ontario has just released two new asthma action plans for use – one for adults 16 years and older and one for children one to 15 years of age. Ask your healthcare provider to complete the asthma action plan and show you how to use it. Find more information online at lungontario.ca/asthma.