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How to Use an Asthma Action Plan

Asthma can cause inflammation and swelling in the airways. This can lead to long-term lung damage. It is important to treat this inflammation to limit damage to the lungs. You also need to know how to quickly treat an asthma attack. An asthma action plan prepares you to deal with your asthma. The asthma action plan tells you what medicines to take every day and how to treat an asthma attack. You will feel better knowing you are controlling your asthma.

See a sample asthma action plan.

Your asthma action plan

Your asthma action plan can help you have fewer problems. Your plan may include:

  • A list of medicines to take for daily control of your asthma and when to take them
  • How to treat asthma symptoms before you have a bad attack
  • What to do if an attack becomes an emergency and where to go for medical treatment
  • Your treatment goals
  • A place to record peak flow readings
  • An asthma diary to keep track of your peak flow and/or asthma symptoms, and also what medicines you took for quick relief

Using your asthma action plan

Develop your plan.

  • Work with your doctor to make the asthma action plan for you or your child. The plan is based on your peak flow or your asthma symptoms. These help your doctor know how bad your asthma is. 
  • Let your doctor know what you want regarding asthma care. For instance, if you are not sure how to use your inhalers, tell your doctor.

Take the daily medicines as described in your action plan, and watch for trends in symptoms.

  • Take your daily medicines to help limit long-term damage and avoid asthma attacks.
  • Use an asthma diary. An asthma diary can help you know your symptoms, what triggers them, and how well your treatment is working. Write down questions you have about treatment.
  • If your doctor recommends it, check your peak flow routinely. It measures how much air you breathe out when you try your hardest. This is a good way to know how well your lungs are working.
    • If you are staying in the green zone, your doctor may want to stop a medicine or lower the dose.
    • If you are staying in the yellow zone, your doctor may need to increase the dose or add a medicine.
    • If you are staying in the red zone, you may need to go to the emergency room or be admitted to the hospital.

Follow your action plan when you are having symptoms.

  • Check yourself for asthma symptoms to know which step to follow in your action plan. Watch for things like being short of breath, having chest tightness, coughing, and wheezing. Also notice if symptoms wake you up at night or if you get tired quickly when you exercise.
  • If your peak flow decreases or you have symptoms, follow your action plan. It helps take the guesswork out of asthma care.
  • Recognizing and treating attacks early are important to good asthma control.

Review your plan with your doctor.

  • Take your asthma action plan and your asthma diary when you see your doctor. Get answers to any questions you may have about the asthma plans or your symptoms.
  • Make sure you know how and when to call your doctor or go to the hospital.
  • Let your doctor know if parts of the plan are not helping your asthma attacks.
  • Tell your doctor if you are not able to follow your action plan.

Understanding your zones

Your action plan is based on zones defined by your symptoms and/or peak flow.

Green zone. Green means go.

  • You are in the green zone if your peak flow is 80% to 100% of your personal best measurement. You should have no asthma symptoms when you are in the green zone. You want to be in the green zone every day.
  • If you continue to stay in the green zone, your doctor may lower your daily asthma medicines.

Yellow zone. Yellow means caution.

  • You are in the yellow zone if your peak flow is 50% to less than 80% of your personal best measurement. You may not have any symptoms, but your lung function is reduced. When you have symptoms, they may be mild to moderate, or they may keep you from your normal activities or disturb your sleep.
  • Being in the yellow zone means you should take action. Your action plan should state what medicines you need to take, how much to take, and when to take them.
  • If you keep going into the yellow zone from the green zone, talk with your doctor. You may need a different medicine or the dose of your medicine may need to be increased.

Red zone. Red means STOP.

  • You are in the red zone if your peak flow is less than 50% of your personal best measurement. Your symptoms will be severe, and you may cough and be very short of breath.
  • If your symptoms and peak flow are in the red zone, follow your action plan and call your doctor. If you can't get in touch with your doctor, go to the emergency department.

Call 911 right away if you are having severe trouble breathing.

See a sample asthma action plan.

Need help managing your asthma?

As part of your BCBSRI health plan, you can work with a nurse at no cost to manage your asthma or other ongoing health issues. To talk with a nurse, visit a Your Blue Store location or contact us at 1-844-563-0892 or

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Healthwise and BCBSRI disclaim any liability for use of this information. This information is not meant to replace professional medical advice or service. Always consult your health care provider regarding any health or medical condition and before beginning any new treatment, and in an emergency call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.