Asthma requires careful monitoring and management. Your doctor will give you detailed guidelines to prevent and manage attacks. An asthma action plan is the core component of all asthma guidelines. It is the basic tool that gives the roadmap to keep asthma in control.
What is an asthma action plan?
An asthma action plan is a written plan that is prepared together by the doctor and the patient (or the patient’s guardian in the case of children). The causes, symptoms and severity of asthma vary from patient to patient and each patient needs an individual plan. Doctors usually use a standard asthma plan as the starting point and then customize it according to the needs of the patient.
If you have asthma, your action plan will tell you how to monitor your condition and what to do when specific events, for example, worsening of symptoms, occur. It also gives you and your caretaker (if applicable) the guidelines for handling an emergency situation.
You must always carry the action plan with you and share it with your caregiver, a colleague, friend or relative who can be of assistance in an emergency. If your child has asthma, make sure that the plan is shared with the daycare provider and the school representatives in charge of health of the students.
The action plan is a pre-planned and accurate response to changes in your condition. It is a very useful tool because it takes most of the decision making out of the picture if your condition deteriorates. There is no confusion and you or your caregiver can act without hesitation and without wasting time.
Benefits of an asthma action plan
Due to your ability to make a timely intervention, an asthma action plan gives you the following benefits.
1. Prevents your symptoms from getting worse and reduces the need for hospital visits, hospital admissions and call for emergency services.
2. It helps you minimize loss of work or school time.
3. The availability of a step-by-step plan reduces the panic that you or your caregiver could experience if an attack occurs.
4. Reduces unnecessary use or overuse of medicines.
5. Improves your respiratory health and lung function in the long-term.
Important elements of an asthma action plan
An asthma action plan will include the following.
1. The patient’s name, age, home address, work address and other contact information.
2. Name and contact information of the doctor, parents or guardian (in case of children) and the caregiver (if applicable).
3. Contact information of the person to be informed in an emergency.
4. A list of known asthma triggers.
5. List of medicines being taken regularly or to be taken as advised by the action plan.
6. The method of monitoring used to assess the condition of the patient.
7. Asthma zones to classify the severity of the condition and guidelines for predicting attacks.
8. Specific action (including medicines) to be taken in response to an attack or changes in the patient’s condition.
9. A list of conditions that indicate need for immediate medical attention.
10. Telephone numbers to obtain emergency medical assistance.
Methods of monitoring
Monitoring the patient’s condition is an essential part of an asthma action plan. There are two methods of monitoring: by measuring the Peak Expiratory Flow (PEF) or by monitoring the symptoms. Both methods are designed to predict asthma flare-ups much before they actually occur and prescribe remedial action to avert attacks. Symptoms, PEF patterns and medicines are unique to each individual.
For adults, PEF measurement is the best way to monitor a patient’s condition because they can predict impending attacks even before the first symptoms appear. Measurements over a period of time can show what the normal baseline is and when the situation is getting worse or better. The best peak flow rate over a period of two to three weeks is considered as the patient’s baseline. The degree of the respiratory problem can be assessed by the amount of deviation from this baseline.
The other method of measuring a patient’s condition is by keeping track of symptoms. For example, symptoms such as raspy coughs, wheezing or tightness of the chest, breathlessness, activity level, nighttime condition, etc. can be used to gauge the degree of the problem and whether it is becoming worse or improving. Using symptoms to keep track of a patient’s condition is the preferred option for children.
Asthma zones – A plan for every situation
Most asthma action plans use zones. Zones categorize symptoms or PEF readings according to their severity. The usual way of zoning is to classify them as green, yellow and red.
The green zone is the normal zone. You are in this zone when you don’t experience any asthma symptoms and your PEF readings are close to the baseline. In this zone, asthma management is all about preventing the situation from becoming worse. This is usually accomplished by avoiding triggers and taking control medicines. When triggers can’t be avoided, it may be necessary to take other medicines to prevent a flare-up.
The yellow zone is the warning zone. You are in this zone when you are experiencing some symptoms, but the situation is not too bad. Here, the focus is on using medicines to reduce the symptoms and bring you back to the green zone.
The red zone is the acute zone. You are in this zone if you are experiencing acute symptoms or having a full-blown asthma attack. The focus here is to give you immediate relief. If your condition does not improve drastically, you must see your doctor.
Emergency action plan
The methods in the green and yellow zone work when the deterioration of your condition is slow and somewhat predictable. It also works when you have a sudden attack that responds immediately to the treatment prescribed in the red zone. There are times when the attack is so severe and unexpected that there is a danger of anaphylaxis. This is an emergency situation.
The red zone also has an emergency section giving the steps to take during an emergency. It includes the telephone numbers of your doctor, the local emergency services and the family member to be informed. An emergency will usually require an immediate trip to the hospital.
Medicines and instructions for their use
Your asthma action plan will give a list of medicines with their exact strengths and doses to be used in each zone. It will also give details of how and when the medicines should be taken or administered.
There are many types of medicines used for the management of asthma. Here are two categories that you should know about.
1. Controller medicines: These medicines are mild maintenance doses to prevent airway inflammation. They are used in the green zone and are designed to prevent symptoms. They are long acting and have to be taken regularly even when you feel well.
2. Quick relief medicines: These medicines are mostly used in the red zone. They give immediate or fast relief from symptoms. They act for a short time and you may need to take several doses at prescribed intervals. They are designed to relax the bronchial muscles and open up the airways.
An asthma action plan is an important component of all asthma guidelines. This is your roadmap to prevent asthma attacks and mitigate attacks before they become too severe. Always carry your asthma plan with you. If your child has asthma, give a copy of the plan to the school authorities. Asthma is a condition that changes over time and action plans have to be regularly reviewed and changed. Learn more at https://business.facebook.com/EbenezerGreenHealthierHomes/.