To print: Use your web browser's print feature. Close this window after printing.

Asthma: Taking Charge of Your Asthma

Table of Contents


During an asthma attack, the airways swell and narrow. This makes it hard to breathe. Although asthma is a lifelong disease, treatment can help control it and help you stay healthy.

You and your doctor will make an asthma action plan that outlines the two approaches to taking charge of asthma:

Using the asthma action plan also helps you keep track of your asthma and know how well your treatment is working.

If you or your child has been recently diagnosed, it may seem like there is a lot to remember. But the things you need to do to take charge of your asthma are really quite simple. With some practice, they will become part of your normal routine.

How to take charge of your asthma

Follow your asthma action plan

Know your asthma zones

An action plan is based on zones that are defined by your symptoms, your peak flow, or both. There are three zones: green, yellow, and red. Your action plan tells you what to do when you are in each zone.

Check your symptoms or your peak flow, or both, on a regular basis, and use your action plan to see what zone you are in. If you have yellow zone symptoms or if your peak flow drops below 80% of your personal best measurement, follow your action plan. To figure out what 80% of your personal best measurement is, multiply your personal best measurement by 0.80. For example, if your personal best peak flow is 400, then 80% of that is 400 times 0.80, which is 320. To figure what 50% of your personal best peak flow is, multiply your personal best measurement by 0.50.

Green means Go.

You are in the green zone if your peak flow is 80% to 100% of your personal best measurement.

This is where you want to be. Keep taking your daily asthma medicines as prescribed.

Yellow means Caution.

You are in the yellow zone if your peak flow is 50% to 79% of your personal best measurement. You may not have any symptoms, but your lung function is reduced. When symptoms are present, you may cough, wheeze, or feel short of breath. Or your asthma may limit your activities or wake you up at night.

You should take action. Your action plan will tell you what medicines you need to take, how much to take, and when to take them. If you keep going into the yellow zone from the green zone, talk with your doctor. You may need a different medicine or the dose of your medicine may need to be increased.

Red means DANGER.

You are in the red zone if your peak flow is less than 50% of your personal best measurement. You may be very short of breath. Or the quick-relief medicines may not have worked. This is dangerous.

Take the actions listed in your action plan and call your doctor. If you can't get in touch with your doctor, go to the emergency department. Call 911 right away if you are having severe trouble breathing.

Use your asthma diary

Check your peak flow if your doctor recommends it

See your doctor to review your plan

Keep your regular follow-up appointments. During checkups, your doctor will ask if your symptoms or your peak flow, or both, have held steady, improved, or gotten worse. He or she will also ask if you have asthma symptoms during exercise or at night. This information can help your doctor know if your asthma category has changed or if you need to change medicines or doses.

When you go to your doctor:

Credits for Asthma: Taking Charge of Your Asthma

Current as of: July 6, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Elizabeth T. Russo MD - Internal Medicine

Note: The "printer friendly" document will not contain all the information available in the online document. Some information (e.g. cross-references to other topics, definitions or medical illustrations) is only available in the online version.

© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.