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Amy Seller, nurse practitioner

Amy Selly, nurse practitioner, and patient Billie Lake review Lake's asthma management plan and discuss inhaler medicine during an office visit at Allina Health Faribault Clinic.

Common asthma triggers

Each person with asthma needs to identify their asthma triggers and avoid them.

These are common triggers, the worst of which is secondhand smoke, according to Amy Selly, nurse practitioner, Allina Health Faribault Clinic:

  • cigarette smoke and secondhand smoke
  • animal dander
  • chalk dust
  • cleaning products
  • colds or influenza
  • dust mites, dust, stuffed animals, carpet
  • emotional upset
  • exercise
  • foods
  • fumes, strong odors or perfume
  • mold
  • ozone alert days
  • pests (rodents, cockroaches)
  • plants, flowers, cut grass, pollen
  • sudden temperature change
  • wood smoke.

Do you have an asthma management plan?

Few things are as frightening as not being able to breathe. Just ask any of the more than 22 million Americans who have asthma. Even when treated, people with asthma are prone to attacks and complications.

According to the results of a recent survey in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, only 45 percent of Americans with moderate-to-severe asthma have their condition under control.

At Allina Health clinic locations in Northfield and Faribault, primary care providers work closely with asthma patients to control it.

"Understanding that your asthma can be controlled, and learning what triggers your asthma are key to a better life," said Amy Selly, nurse practitioner, Allina Health Faribault Clinic, who has a special interest in helping people with asthma.

Part of her job is to help patients understand how to monitor their symptoms each and every day and to avoid triggers, or things that make their symptoms worse. If patients can recognize when their symptoms are worsening, they can take steps to avoid a full-blown asthma attack. And this, in turn, saves lives.

Be prepared with a plan

One tool that helps patients monitor symptoms is called the asthma management plan. It's a set of written instructions that helps patients recognize worsening symptoms and know how to treat them.

"We encourage every patient with asthma to create their own personal plan with their provider," said Selly. "And it should be reviewed and updated once a year."

Research has linked the asthma action plan to a decrease in emergency department visits, fewer hospitalizations and improved lung function.

An asthma management plan

The asthma management plans for PDF iconadults and
PDF iconchildren are divided into three sections - the green zone, yellow zone and red zone - and lists the symptoms and actions a patient should take in each zone.

The plan also highlights ways to control asthma triggers.

  • In the green zone, the patient is symptom-free and doing well
  • In the yellow zone, his or her symptoms are getting worse and may require treatment, such a quick-relief medicine
  • In the red zone, the symptoms are at their worst and require immediate medical attention.

"As we work with each patient to write their plan, we identify triggers that make their symptoms worse and they develop a higher level of understanding of their own symptoms," Selly explained. “The plan becomes a short, simple, written document that may be shared with others who may be there to help when asthma is triggered, such as a spouse, teachers and the school nurse. It helps them know what to do."

To help assure that asthma patients have their asthma under control, Allina Medical Clinic staff proactively contact patients who have not been seen in the clinic in the past year. Using a brief questionnaire called the Asthma Therapy Assessment Questionnaire (ATAQ), they can determine how well asthma is controlled. If the questionnaire score is too high, they recommend an office visit.

If you have asthma, talk with your doctor about a written asthma management plan. If your child has asthma, or if a loved one with asthma might need your help during an attack, make sure they have an asthma management plan and share it with you.

Source: Healthy Communities Magazine, summer 2012
Reviewed by: Amy Selly, nurse practitioner, Allina Health clinics
First Published: 07/06/2012
Last Reviewed: 07/06/2012