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What is an Asthma Action Plan?

What is an Asthma Action Plan? What is an Asthma Action Plan?

By: Clinton Dunn MD, FAAP & Addie Dodson, MD, FAAP

You may have been given an asthma action plan for your child after a doctor's office visit, a trip to the emergency department, or after your child was hospitalized. Ideally, everyone with asthma should have an asthma action plan specific to them.

Why is it important to have an asthma action plan?

An asthma action plan is designed to help families manage their child's asthma. The goal is to avoid asthma emergencies. The plan can guide parents and caregivers on what medications to use, and when to use them, to prevent and control flare-ups.

Create an asthma action plan for your child

Download this asthma action plan so you and your pediatrician can personalize it for your child. Save and print it for your records. Be sure to share it with your child's school and anyone else who cares for your child.

Because asthma affects people differently, asthma action plans are customized for your child. While every asthma action plan looks a little bit different, they all include the same major parts.

The asthma action plan format: what's included?

Asthma action plans include a list of the child's asthma medications taken, early warning signs for asthma symptoms, instructions on when to use the medicines and call your health care provider, and when to seek emergency care.

Traffic light color zones

Your child's asthma action plan will be divided into a traffic light format (with the colors green, yellow and red), based on your child's symptoms and how they feel.

  • Green means go! This is your child's everyday plan and when they are feeling good.

  • Yellow means proceed with caution. This is for when your child is not feeling quite right. Continue to follow everything in the green zone; the yellow zone adds on other options to help prevent more problems or worsening symptoms.

  • Red zone means danger! This is urgent, when your child needs medications quickly and fast medical attention to prevent symptoms from getting even worse.

Family & health care provider contacts

Every asthma action plan should have information about your child, including name and family contact information. It should also have the name and phone number for the doctor who takes care of your child's asthma, whether it is your pediatrician or an asthma specialist.

Peak flow tracking information

Depending on your child's age, there may be a number written on the top of your asthma action plan. This number measures how hard your child can breathe out when feeling healthy on a peak flow machine. It is a good way to see if your child's breathing effort is normal and can be used daily to track how their lungs are doing.

How to match color zones with your child's asthma symptoms

  • Green Zone: Every day

The green zone represents what you should do when your child is feeling completely normal. This is what to do when your child is breathing comfortably, sleeping through the night, not having any coughing or wheezing, and can play just like other kids. It means your child's peak flow range is normal.

Your child's daily controller medication will be listed here, along with how much to take and when to take it. This is the medication that your child should take every day. Examples include inhaled steroids or anti-allergy medication.

Some children have exercise-induced asthma, or asthma symptoms that flare up when they exercise or play actively. For children with this issue, the medicine they need to take before exercise will also be listed in the Green Zone. This includes how much to take, and when to take it before play.

  • Yellow Zone: First signs of illness

This yellow zone is for when your child may be starting to get sick and is at risk of having an asthma flare. Symptoms include: cough or cold symptoms, some wheezing, having a known trigger for a flare (like change in weather), coughing at night, or having a tight chest or belly pain (little kids have a hard time knowing if they are having belly pain or chest pain). The peak flow range listed will be less than normal.

Your child will need to take all their Green Zone medication PLUS the medication listed in the Yellow zone. The Asthma Action Plan will include how much medicine to take and how often.

Your asthma action plan will also list when to call your child's doctor if the symptoms are not improving or getting worse.

  • Red Zone: This is urgent!

This red zone is for when your child is sick and their asthma flare is dangerous: medicine is not helping, you notice your child is breathing hard and/or fast, you can see your child's ribs while they are breathing, your child's nose is opening wider when they breathe (called "nasal flaring"), or your child cannot talk because they are having a hard time breathing. The peak flow range listed will be low.

Call your doctor immediately! If it is after the office is closed, go to the emergency department or call 911 if you cannot take your child there yourself.

You should also give all the Green Zone medications AND whatever rescue medications are listed in your Red Zone. Your child's asthma action plan will also include how much of the medicine to take and how often. It may be a higher dose of the Yellow Zone medication that you also give as well more frequently.


If you have any questions about the asthma action plan, or you do not have one but think your child could benefit, please talk with your child's pediatrician.

More information

About Dr. Dunn

Clinton D Clinton Dunn, MD, FAAP, is a board-certified pediatrician and allergist/immunologist who practices in the Hampton Roads Virginia area. He is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the AAP Section on Allergy and Immunology. His clinical interests focus on atopic dermatitis, asthma, food allergy and applying high quality evidence-based medicine for the improvement of pediatric allergic/immunologic diseases.

About Dr. Dodson

Clinton DAddie Dodson, MD, FAAP, is a board-certified pediatrician and currently completing her fellowship in pediatric pulmonology at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Dr. Dodson is a member of the AAP its Section on Pediatric Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine. She currently serves as the section’s executive committee fellow-in-training liaison. Dr. Dodson's clinical interests within pulmonology are growing while she continues in her fellowship, but she has special interests in asthma, use of technology to improve practice, medical education and advocacy.

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American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Allergy and Immunology (Copyright © 2024)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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