Asthma is a chronic condition that affects the airways and makes breathing difficult. Putting an asthma action plan in place can be an effective way to manage this condition.

An individual can work with a doctor to create an asthma action plan that outlines the medications they need and explains how they work and when to use them. Asthma action plans can benefit children and adults.

If a person has an asthma attack, their asthma action plan helps them take the right medication. It may also tell them to seek medical attention, depending on their symptoms.

In addition to providing relief during an attack, these action plans allow people to monitor their asthma and learn the best ways to manage the condition. As a result, they may be better able to control their asthma symptoms, improving their quality of life.

Keep reading to learn more about how doctors construct asthma action plans and how people can use them to manage their condition.

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An asthma action plan is a written description of what someone should do if their symptoms worsen or they have an asthma attack.

Asthma action plans contain three levels of severity: green, yellow, and red. They include details of the medication an individual should take and the actions they should follow at each level.

This essential document also helps a person determine what steps to take when their symptoms are worsening and lists what they should do in an emergency.

Individuals create an asthma action plan with a doctor. These plans aim to help people manage their asthma and prevent and control asthma attacks.

Every asthma action plan includes three levels to reflect different levels of symptom severity. The levels are:

  • Green: In this zone, the individual is doing well and has few to no symptoms.
  • Yellow: As someone’s symptoms worsen, they enter the yellow zone.
  • Red: People in this zone require urgent or emergency medical attention.

Asthma action plans must include all the information necessary for the treatment of an asthma attack. The details that they may contain include:

  • individual asthma triggers
  • medications that the person should take on a daily basis, according to their symptoms, and in an emergency
  • symptoms that show that asthma is becoming more severe
  • signs that someone needs urgent medical attention
  • phone numbers for an emergency contact, healthcare professional, and local hospital

Peak flow rate

Doctors use a measurement called peak flow rate to differentiate green, yellow, and red levels. A simple peak flow test can determine peak flow rate by measuring the volume of air that a person can blow out of their lungs. Initially, a doctor or nurse will teach a person how to carry out the test. The individual can then test themself at home.

A doctor will initially use the test to confirm a person’s personal best score, which is the highest peak flow number they have over 2–3 weeks. Doctors then use this number to determine the range of peak flow values for each of the three zones.

Knowing these ranges makes it easy for a person to perform the test at home and see what zone they fall into at any particular moment.

Learn more about how to use a peak flow meter.

An asthma action plan lays out what symptoms someone should look for and tells them when to take certain medications.

The plan should include information on medicine types, including how much the person should take and when they should do so. Each zone also lists the relevant symptoms and peak flow measurements.


Someone is in the green zone if they have no symptoms. Treatment and management aim to keep people in the green zone.


People enter the yellow zone if they experience coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, or difficulty breathing. If someone has these symptoms while performing regular daily activities or trying to sleep, they are in the yellow zone.

They should use medications for quick relief. At this point, they can self-manage their care. However, if these quick relief medications do not improve the symptoms, the person may enter the red zone.


A person is in the red zone if the symptoms are so severe that they result in trouble walking or talking.

Although the individual can take further quick relief medications while in the red zone, they should seek emergency medical attention.

Learn more about severe asthma.

If a person’s symptoms align with those that their action plan lists in the red zone, they should seek emergency care.

Their action plan should include phone numbers for their local emergency department, their doctor, and rapid transportation. It should also include their emergency contacts.

Common asthma symptoms indicating a problem include:

  • symptoms while trying to sleep
  • symptoms that occur with increased activity level, such as exercising, working, or playing
  • symptoms during waking hours, such as coughing, wheezing, or chest tightness

About 25 million people in the United States live with asthma, which equates to approximately 1 in 13 people.

Asthma is a chronic condition, which means that it affects people in the long term. There is currently no cure, but a range of medications and lifestyle practices can help people manage the condition and live a fulfilling life.

An asthma action plan reminds people to be aware of their symptoms and guides them to take the appropriate medication when necessary.

Sometimes, asthma symptoms can escalate to a dangerous level, which is why proper management is essential. People with asthma should take steps to educate themselves about the condition. Knowing and understanding their personal triggers can often help a person avoid asthma attacks.

It is also important to learn to recognize worsening symptoms and respond by taking a quick relief medication.

Learn more about different treatments for asthma.

Many people can successfully manage their asthma symptoms with an appropriate asthma action plan.

Asthma symptoms vary in severity, but people can maintain their health by controlling their symptoms and recognizing when they change or worsen. People should seek prompt treatment or medical advice when they move into the yellow or red zone of their action plan.

Asthma is more common in children than in adults. As anecdotal evidence suggests that children tend to downplay their asthma, an asthma action plan may be particularly useful for them.

Action plans are especially beneficial for school-aged children or those with multiple caregivers because they explain the child’s asthma treatments. The plan will allow the responsible adult to manage an asthma attack safely and promptly.

Learn about the signs that a person may have asthma.

An action plan is a clear, written plan detailing what a person with asthma should in the event of an asthma attack. It lists all necessary medications and explains when to take them. It also includes emergency numbers and information on what symptoms to monitor.

The plan includes information that helps the person monitor the severity of their symptoms, self-manage asthma attacks, and determine when they should seek emergency care. The use of three zones — green, yellow, and red — with different symptoms and peak flow measurements makes it easy for an individual to know which stage of the plan they fall under at any time.

As asthma can change over time, an individual should revise their asthma action plan annually with a doctor.

It is vital to maintain control of asthma for a higher quality of life. An asthma action plan can help a person do that, regardless of their age.