Adult Asthma With Action Plan

Asthma is a condition that affects your lungs. It is characterized by swelling and narrowing of your airways as well as increased mucous production. The narrowing comes from swelling and muscle spasms inside the air tubes. When this happens, breathing can be difficult and you can have coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. Knowing more about asthma can help you manage it better. Asthma cannot be cured, but medications and lifestyle changes can help control it. Asthma can be a minor problem for some people but if it is not controlled it can lead to a life-threatening asthma attack. Asthma can change over time. It is important to work with your doctor to manage your asthma symptoms.


The exact cause of asthma is unknown. Asthma is believed to be caused by inherited (genetic) and environmental exposures. Swelling and redness (inflammation) of the airways occurs in asthma. This can be triggered by allergies, viral lung infections or irritants in the air. Allergic reactions can cause you to wheeze immediately or several hours later to an exposure. Asthma triggers are different for each person. It is important to pay attention and know what triggers your asthma.

Common triggers for asthma attacks include:

  • Allergies (animals, dander, pollen, food, dust mites and molds) can trigger attacks.

  • Respiratory infection (usually viral, such as the common cold) commonly triggers attacks. Medicines that kill germs (antibiotics) are not helpful for viral infections. They usually do not help with asthmatic attacks.

  • Exercise can trigger an attack in some people with asthma. Proper pre-exercise medications allow most people to participate in sports.

  • Irritants (pollution, cigarette smoke, strong odors, aerosol sprays, paint fumes, etc.) all may trigger an asthmatic attack. SMOKING CANNOT BE ALLOWED IN HOMES OF PEOPLE WITH ASTHMA. People with asthma should not smoke and should not be around smokers.

  • Weather changes. There is not one best climate for people with asthma. Winds increase molds and pollens in the air. Rain refreshes the air by washing irritants out. Cold air may cause inflammation.

  • Stress and emotional upset. Emotional problems do not cause asthma but can trigger an attack. Anxiety, frustration and anger may produce attacks. These emotions may also be produced by attacks.

  • Medications. Some medications may trigger an attack. Certain heart medications and anti-inflammatory medications can cause an attack.

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD is a condition where stomach acid backs up into your throat (esophagus) and can trigger an asthma attack.


  • Feeling short of breath.

  • Chest tightness or pain.

  • Difficulty sleeping due to coughing, wheezing, or feeling short of breath.

  • A whistling or wheezing sound with exhalation.

  • Coughing or wheezing that is worse when you.

  • Have a virus (such as a cold or the flu).

  • Are suffering from allergies.

  • Are exposed to certain fumes or chemicals.

  • Exercise.

Signs that your asthma is probably getting worse include:

  • More frequent and bothersome asthma signs and symptoms.

  • Increasing difficulty breathing (this can be measured by a peak flow meter, which is a simple device used to check how well your lungs are working).

  • An increasingly frequent need to use a quick-relief inhaler.


  • Remain very calm during an asthma attack. If you or someone else with asthma seems to be getting worse and is unresponsive to treatment, seek immediate medical care.

  • Control your home environment in the following ways:

  • Change your heating/air conditioning filter at least once a month.

  • Place a filter or cheesecloth over your heating/air conditioning vents.

  • Limit the use of fire places and wood stoves.

  • Do not smoke. Do not stay in places where others are smoking.

  • Get rid of pests (roaches, mice) and their droppings.

  • If you see mold on a plant, throw it away.

  • Clean your floors and dust every week. Use unscented cleaning products. Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter if possible. If vacuuming or cleaning triggers your asthma, try to find someone else to do these chores.

  • Floors in your house should be wood, tile or vinyl. Carpet can trap dander and dust.

  • Use allergy-proof pillows, mattress covers, and box spring covers.

  • Wash bed sheets and blankets every week in hot water and dry in a dryer.

  • Use a blanket that is made of polyester or cotton with a tight nap.

  • Do not use a dust ruffle on your bed.

  • Clean bathrooms and kitchens with bleach and repaint with mold-resistant paint.

  • Wash hands frequently.

  • Talk to your caregiver about an action plan for managing your asthma attacks at home. This includes the use of a peak flow meter that measures the severity of the attack and medications that can help stop the attack. An action plan can help minimize or stop the attack without having to seek medical care.

  • Always have a plan prepared for seeking medical attention. This should include calling your physician, access to local emergency care, and calling your local emergency services (911 in U.S.) in case of a severe attack.


  • There is wheezing and shortness of breath even if medications are given to prevent attacks.

  • An oral temperature above 101° F (38.3° C) develops.

  • There are muscle aches, chest pain, or thickening of saliva with mucus (sputum).

  • The sputum changes from clear or white to yellow, green, gray, or bloody.

  • There are problems related to the medicine you are taking (such as a rash, itching, swelling, or trouble breathing).


  • You experience shortness of breath at rest or when engaging in very little physical activity.

  • Using your usual quick-relief inhaler does not stop your wheezing or there is increased coughing.

  • You have a rapid pulse, difficulty breathing, or can not complete a short sentence.

  • You have difficulty eating, drinking, or talking due to asthma symptoms.

  • You develop severe chest pain.

  • There is a bluish color to the lips or fingernails.

  • You feel lightheaded, dizzy, or faint.


Patient Name: __________________________________________________ Date: ________

Follow-up appointment with physician:

  • Physician Name: ____________________

  • Telephone: ____________________

  • Follow-up recommendation: ____________________

Always bring all of your medications to all of your appointments.


Tobacco smoke, dust mites, molds, pets, cockroaches, strong odors and sprays (burning wood in fireplace, incense, scented candles, perfume, paints, cleaning products), exercise, pollen, cold air, or the flu.


Symptoms: No cough or wheezing, chest tightness or shortness of breath either during the day or at night; can participate in usual activities.

If using a peak flow meter:

My optimal peak flow is: _____ to _____ (should be 80-100% of personal best)


Every day:

  • Controller: ________________ How much? ________________ When? ________________

  • Controller: ________________ How much? ________________ When? ________________

Before exercise:

  • Reliever: ________________ How much? ________________ When? ________________

If symptoms are noted:

  • Reliever/Rescue: ________________ How much? ________________ When? ________________

Call your physician if using reliever more than 2-3 times per week.


Symptoms: Cough, wheeze, shortness of breath, chest tightness, waking at night due to asthma, unable to participate in all of usual activities.

If using a peak flow meter:

My peak flow is: _____ to _____ (50-79% of personal best)

Add the following medicine to those used daily:

  • Reliever/Rescue: ________________ How much? ________________ When? ________________

If symptoms and peak flow return to GREEN ZONE after 1 hour of above treatment, continue monitoring to make sure you remain in green zone.

If symptoms and peak flow DO NOT return to GREEN ZONE after 1 hour of above treatment:

  • Reliever/Rescue: ________________ How much? ________________ When? ________________

  • Oral Steroids: ________________ How much? ________________ When? ________________

  • Call your doctor if: ________________________________________________________________


Symptoms: Severely short of breath, rescue meds have not helped, cannot participate in usual activities, you are having trouble walking or talking due to asthma symptoms, you are dizzy or faint, your fingernails or lips are bluish, your symptoms are the same or worse after 24 hours in Yellow Caution Zone.

If using a peak flow meter:

My peak flow is: less than _____ (50% of personal best)

Add the following medicine to those used daily:

  • Reliever/Rescue: ________________ How much? ________________ When? ________________

  • Oral Steroids: ________________ How much? ________________ When? ________________


Have someone drive you to the hospital right away or call your local emergency services (911 in U.S.) if you are in the red danger zone after 15 minutes and you have not reached your doctor.