Chronic asthma patients – and parents of children who suffer from it – know the stress associated with the frightening acute attacks and even long-term disabilities associated with the condition. Twenty-two million Americans, many of them children, suffer from chronic asthma.
Responses to an acute event vary widely from a panicked visit to the emergency room to suffering through it. Neither is the right way to achieve optimal health outcomes.
Have a Plan
Having an asthma action plan in place can alleviate much of the stress and worry – and potentially save the patient’s life. An asthma action plan isn’t just for emergencies. A well-designed plan can be a great tool to effectively manage the condition on a daily basis.
As a specialist pharmacist in the Express Scripts Pulmonary Therapeutic Resource Center®, I counsel patients on developing and following an effective asthma plan. My team and I discuss symptoms with patients and explain proper inhaler technique and how each inhaler helps manage their asthma.
Elements of an Action Plan
An effective asthma plan should include instruction for both long-term daily and acute management medications. It also should help identify and assess the severity of an attack and address patient concerns, including treatment options preferable to the patient.
The action plan is typically broken down into three zones:
- Green: I feel good
- Yellow: I do not feel so good
- Red: I feel awful
Asthma guidelines recommend using a peak flow meter – which measures the maximum amount of expiratory airflow – as part of an action plan to determine the severity of the condition along with symptoms. A patient is instructed to write down their “personal best” reading when healthy to compare with their reading when they are sick. For instance, an asthma attack is considered in the red zone – or severe – when the peak flow reading is less than half of the patient’s normal value or “personal best.” This is typically accompanied by shortness of breath, wheezing and labored breathing and may require immediate medical attention.
Why It Matters
Using an asthma action plan to help prepare for an asthma attack is like knowing how to drive defensively. If everything is status quo, then driving is simply a matter of obeying the speed limit and following the signs along the road. However, if the driver ignores road conditions, visibility or other traffic, then their risk for an accident increases. An asthma action plan is a tool, designed to help asthma patients monitor the signs and symptoms that may trigger an attack and a guide to help manage a crisis.
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