Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What is an Asthma Action Plan?

Asthma is a chronic disease of the lungs that can be serious and even life threatening. People with asthma have increased sensitivity to things we are exposed to in our daily surroundings. This increased sensitivity puts people with asthma at risk for getting slightly sick to very sick just by being around substances and situations that other people without asthma don’t even think about. Triggers like dust, pet dander, smoke, cleaning products, perfumes, cold weather, and exercise can set off an asthma attack. 

Medical professionals agree that every person with asthma should have a personalized Asthma Action Plan. Various organizations, such as American Lung Association, American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, and Kids Health, have templates for an Asthma Action Plan. The Center for Disease Control has a compilation 
of templates from health departments across the United States.

What is an Asthma Action Plan? An Asthma Action Plan is a written document that contains information specific to the person and their asthma. The plan is provided to others who spend a lot of time with the person with asthma. For example, if your child has asthma, copies of the plan should be given to their teacher(s), the school nurse, bus driver, day care provider, and parents of friends. An adult may give copies of their action plan to their family, co-workers, friends, neighbors, and their children (if they are old enough).

What does an Asthma Action Plan include? General information such as name, emergency contacts, and healthcare provider is included in the plan. The plan also includes the severity level of the person’s asthma, their triggers, and a list of their medications with detailed instructions. Another important part of an Asthma Action Plan is a description of what symptoms and signs to look for in the person with asthma.  These symptoms and signs indicate when asthma is well managed, getting worse, or a medical emergency.  The plan describes what actions to take in response to the symptoms and signs.

Why create an Asthma Action Plan? An Asthma Action Plan gets everyone on the same page. In case of an emergency, people who spend the most time with the patient will know exactly how to respond. Also, the plan can help prevent an emergency situation by knowing when the severity level is increasing, and responding before it becomes an emergency. When a teacher knows what a student’s asthma triggers are, they can reduce triggers in the classroom and know to keep a special eye on the student when specific triggers are present. Knowing that key people have the Asthma Action Plan can provide peace of mind to parents with children who have asthma. It can also set the person with asthma at ease to know that there are people who know how to help nearby.

How often should an Asthma Action Plan be updated? An Asthma Action Plan should be updated when information included in the plan changes. For example, the plan should be updated if the person changes medications, new symptoms emerge, or if any of the contact information has changed. The plan should also be reviewed and updated each year. A great time to do this for kids is at the beginning of each school year. This helps parents review the plan, make changes, and assess whether new school staff and faculty should receive the plan.

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