Asthma is a chronic condition that makes breathing difficult. If you have asthma, the airways in your lungs can become inflamed and narrow. You may find yourself gasping to try to get enough air into your lungs.
If you’ve been diagnosed with asthma, you should always carry quick-action medication, such as an inhaler, to relax the muscles in your airways and stave off an attack. You also need to create, carry, and — if necessary — post an asthma action plan.
An asthma action plan is a three-part document that describes how to respond to your asthma based on your symptoms. If your child has asthma, you should share their action plan with their school, coaches, and parents of friends.\
Catherine Fuller, MD, diagnoses and treats asthma in patients of all ages at our office in West Los Angeles, California. Depending on your needs, she prescribes both quick-relief rescue medications and long-term control medications for asthma.
Do you have an asthma action plan? Following are the three key components that every plan must have.
Green means “Go!”
The first component of your asthma action plan is when you’re symptom-free and stable. When you’re in the green zone, you have a green light to take part in the activities you enjoy.
One aspect of determining your zone is looking at your peak flow meter. This medical device measures how quickly air comes out of your lungs when you exhale with force. Dr. Fuller can help you determine your peak flow.
Signs that you’re in the green zone are:
- You’re not coughing, wheezing, or having trouble breathing
- You can do all of the things you normally do
- You sleep well through the night
- Your peak flow meter reading is at 80% or more of peak flow
When you’re in the green zone, your action to maintain airflow involves continuing to take your long-term medication as prescribed. If you’re going to exercise, however, be sure to use your rescue medication as a prevention to avoid an exercise-induced asthma attack.
Yellow means “Caution”
The second component of your asthma action plan describes mild asthma symptoms and tells you what to do when they start to appear — which puts you into the yellow zone. You must be cautious in the yellow zone because your asthma is getting worse. Any of the following means you’re in the yellow zone:
- Coughing, wheezing, chest tightness
- Trouble breathing
- Waking up at night because of asthma
- Being unable to do all of your normal activities
- Having a peak flow meter reading at half to three-quarters of your peak flow
When you’re in the yellow zone, your actions include using your rescue medication to calm down symptoms and continuing your long-term medication. You should keep checking your symptoms every hour to determine if you need more rescue medication or if you’ve moved into the red zone.
Red means “Stop and Get Help”
The red zone is the danger zone, and you or your child need to either contact or visit your doctor right away or go to urgent care or the emergency room. Signs that you’re in the red zone are:
- You’re short of breath
- Your rescue medication doesn’t help
- You can’t do normal activities
- You’ve been in the yellow zone for 24 hours and haven’t improved
- Your peak flow meter reading is less than half of your peak flow
Your actions are to take any other medicines your doctor has prescribed and call your doctor immediately. If your symptoms don’t improve after taking the extra medication, go to your doctor’s office or to the emergency room right away.
Prepare for the fact that you or your child might not be able to speak in the middle of an asthma attack. Be sure that your action plan includes the names of your medications as well as dosages and the contact information of your doctor. You can find a sample asthma action plan here.
Do you or your child have asthma and need help with medications, peak flow meters, and asthma action plans? Call Catherine Fuller, MD, today at 310-828-7978 or use our online appointment request form to get personalized asthma care.