If you or your child has asthma, you need to have an up-to-date action plan to manage any asthma symptoms. And the plan needs to be written out on paper, not just tucked away in your memory.
The idea of an action plan is nothing new. But researchers at the University of Montreal’s Department of Pediatrics and the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Centre in Canada have determined that even in an emergency care setting, it is important for patient care to include updating the action plan.
The researchers concluded that up to 65 percent of children with asthma do not take their controller medications effectively. Even a trip to the emergency room doesn’t remind patients to take their medications on schedule every day. Dr. Francine Ducharme said, “Acute care visits for asthma often signal a management failure.” This means that patients can help reduce ER visits by sticking to their action plan for all prescribed medications.
Asthma action plans can help prevent asthma flare-ups by helping patients keep their asthma under control. The plan is customized for each person and includes basic information such as name, doctor’s name and phone number and a list of triggers that can cause a flare-up. If a peak flow meter is used, there is also a place to record the personal-best peak flow reading.
The plan is divided into three levels of care:
• Green Zone – This is the safety zone where asthma is well controlled. It includes instructions for controller medications that should be taken daily including name, how much, and when to take each drug. It also lists the flow meter range that is considered “safe” for the patient.
• Yellow Zone – This is the caution zone where symptoms indicate a flare-up may be starting. It lists additional rescue medications that can be taken to get asthma symptoms under control and give a flow meter range to help determine if you are in the caution zone.
• Red Zone – This is the danger zone where asthma symptoms are taking control of your breathing. It includes emergency instructions for medications as well as instructions for when to call your doctor or an ambulance to get to the emergency room. It also lists the peak flow reading that puts you into the danger zone.
There are many versions of asthma action plans available online. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has links to downloadable and web-based action plans. Kids Health also offers a more kid-friendly action plan. The important thing is to fill out an action plan and keep it handy. Take it to doctors’ appointments and ER visits and make sure it is always up to date. And make sure friends, family, and babysitters know where the plan is and how to help your child carry it out.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control
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