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New Ulm Medical Center

Action plans a key part of managing asthma

If you have a child with asthma, an asthma action plan will help both you and your child keep symptoms under control by letting you know exactly what to do to manage symptoms. Although all asthma patients should have an action plan, having one is especially important for kids, said Sarah Leslie, PharmD, a pharmacist at New Ulm Medical Center (NUMC).

“It gives parents an idea of when to seek medical care for their child, especially if your child is young and may not be able to verbalize too well,” said Leslie.

Your child’s physician can provide an asthma action plan and help explain it. The plan has green, yellow and red sections, like stoplights. Under each section, the plan lists the symptoms the patient may be feeling under each colored area. For example, a person in the green zone is not coughing or wheezing, and can sleep through the night.

The yellow area indicates caution, said Sandy Kistner, a respiratory therapist at NUMC. “In this zone, the patient’s day is not going as usual, and suggestions are made to use fast-acting inhalers to manage symptoms such as an increased cough or wheezing,” she said.

Red means the child has significant breathing problems. “This section,” said Kistner, “encourages the patient to call their physician and go to the clinic or hospital, or dial 911, if their breathing becomes extremely difficult.”

The action plan provides space for the child’s provider to indicate the right medication to use under each colored zone. That makes it easier for parents and other caregivers, such as childcare providers or school nurses, to help keep symptoms under control. The plan also indicates the child’s asthma triggers and peak flow ranges.

An asthma action plan should be updated during annual checkups with your child’s physician, and is a great resource for anyone using medications for asthma, said Leslie.