Did you know that asthma impacts millions of children every year and that asthma rates are continuing to climb in the U.S? The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 26 million people in the U.S have asthma and that 6 million children under the age of 18 have asthma.
Asthma also affects children disproportionately compared to adult rates, finds the American College of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology (ACAAI). Asthma is prevalent in 9.4 percent of all children vs. just 7.7 percent of all adults.
People with asthma suffer from chronic symptoms including difficulty breathing, sneezing, coughing, and asthma attacks in the most critical cases. An asthma attack is when an asthmatic patients response to triggers (such as respiratory allergens like air pollutants), which leads to intense choking/asphyxiation of the patient.
The impact of asthma require a thoughtful prevention strategy in order for patients to live their lives with fewer symptoms and asthma attacks. ACAAI found that asthma contributes to nearly 439,000 hospitalizations each year, 11 million visits to a doctor’s office annually, and is the leading cause of chronic disease among children.
So what should patients, parents, and similar caregivers do to help protect themselves or others from asthma triggers? The first, and most important step, is to create an asthma action plan.
Similar to an allergy action plan, as discussed in a previous blog, an asthma action plan is a guideline to help individuals identify their risks and avoid triggers.
What should parents or children do to create an effective asthma action plan? To help, we’ve outlined some of the basic asthma action plan guidelines that are common for almost all patients.
Use a peak flow meter and record your unique asthma conditions
Before implementing other parts of your action plan, you’ll want to record your respiratory conditions using a peak flow meter. A peak flow meter is a self-use device that measures when your airways are most open as well as when they begin to close.
Record any peak flow measurements to help gauge the severity of asthma symptoms as well as when your asthma is stable. Peak flow measurements are a critical part of your plan to help others know when your symptoms worsen.
Additionally, you’ll need to know other important asthma information including primary care provider information, current medication and inhaler type/dosage, and if you experience asthma flare-ups during exercise.
For mild to moderate symptoms: have a system of prevention in place for the “safety zone” and “caution zone”
The first part of your asthma action plan should include symptoms for when asthma symptoms are mild and when symptoms are moderate. These are usually referred to as the “safety” and “caution” zones on an asthma action plan.
The safety zone usually means that your child can breathe easy, doesn’t have a cough or wheeze, can complete normal activities, and is able to sleep at night.
Even though the safety zone indicates a stable condition, make sure you list any long-term medications or preventive behaviors that help keep your child stable. Additionally, add any peak flow measurements during the safety zone.
Converse to stable asthma symptoms, the caution zone is when your child’s symptoms worsen and there is a risk of a potential asthma attack. With a well-planned asthma action plan, moderate asthma symptoms are controllable:
- Symptoms in the caution zone usually include some shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, difficulty doing usual activities, disrupted sleep, and irregular cold/flu symptoms.
- When these symptoms persist, make sure to record long-term medication use as well as quick relief medicines. Use information from the safety zone to review long-term medicines.
- The caution zone may indicate a potential asthma attack. Make sure you have procedures in place to call a doctor if your child’s asthma symptoms indicate a possible attack.
In your action plan, it is important to have peak flow measurements for the caution zone. If your child’s peak flow opens up, or constricts further, it can help indicate whether or not an asthma attack is taking place.
Be prepared for emergency treatments and a 9-1-1 call during the danger zone
The danger zone of an asthma action plan is self-explanatory: this is when you need to begin emergency care and contact emergency services immediately.
Start preparing for emergency care if your child or family member starts having symptoms including severe breathing problems, inability to perform daily activities, difficulty walking and talking, and if their inhaler is not working.
Additionally, make sure you administer any emergency medications that your child may need and then immediately call 9-1-1.
The good news is that most asthma symptoms are treatable with a solid asthma action plan that can help caretakers and patients administer treatment. Controlling symptoms in the safety and caution zone can help reduce incidences of full-blown asthma attacks.
Visit an AFC Urgent Care Center around Denver for asthma symptom relief
Asthmatic patients that have mild and moderate asthma symptoms can visit any one of our four AFC Urgent Care Denver locations for quick relief. We have locations in the Denver Speer, Denver Park Hill, Denver Highlands, and Cherry Creek neighborhoods.
If you have any questions about developing a bonafide asthma action plan, or want to visit for symptom relief, please use one of the buttons below to schedule an appointment: