Taking Action to Keep Asthma in Check

January 2023   Nikki Bornhorst

Asthma can be terrifying, but it doesn’t have to be. 

There are serious consequences for people with asthma if it's left unchecked (more than 400,000 people worldwide die each year).1

So, here's the good news. Nearly all asthma-related deaths can be prevented.2

How? By identifying risk factors for attacks and establishing an asthma action plan with your healthcare provider.

Let's take a closer look into how you can help take some of the scary out of asthma.

Allergies and Asthma

The two main risk factors for developing asthma are:1

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Exposure to triggers that provoke an allergic reaction or irritate the airways

You can't change genetics, but you do have the power to minimize your exposure to triggers.

Sensitization to inhaled environmental allergens occurs in more than 80% of children and adolescents and in 60% of adults with asthma.1

Uncovering the allergens that may exacerbate asthma is key to properly manage and decrease the risk of asthma attacks.3

How? With specific IgE testing to identify allergic triggers in those who’ve been diagnosed with asthma.1

What is an Asthma Action Plan?

An asthma action plan is a written “cheat sheet” that provides guidance on how to help keep asthma symptoms in check and what to do if they get out of control.

A typical written plan includes:4

  • A list of your allergic triggers (from a specific IgE test) and other irritants to avoid
  • How to know if you are having an asthma attack and what to do
  • Which medicines to take and when to take them
  • When to call your healthcare provider or go to the emergency room
  • Who to contact in an emergency

These plans are typically broken down into easy-to-understand stoplight-colored sections.5

Green Zone = Good

  • No cough, wheeze, chest tightness or shortness of breath
  • Can do usual activities

Yellow Zone = Caution

  • Some cough, wheeze, chest tightness or shortness of breath
  • Can do some, but not all, usual activities

Red Zone = Danger

  • Very short of breath
  • Quick-relief medicine (inhaler) not helping
  • Cannot do usual activities

And of course, the plans highlight actions (hence, the name) that you should take if you reach the yellow or red levels.

A quick Google search will show you a variety of asthma action plans you can check out. But keep in mind, you shouldn't be creating these plans on your own. Asthma actions plans should be created by a healthcare provider.

Check out our example plan here:

Why Create an Asthma Action Plan?

Several studies have shown the benefits of providing action plans to asthma patients – children and adults – including a reduction in the number of attacks, fewer visits to the emergency room, and an overall improvement of the quality of life.5

Isn't getting back to doing everyday things (chasing after your kids, playing a sport, walking the dog) without fear of a life-threatening asthma attack the heart of the matter?

And if your asthma is getting worse because symptoms start to increase or an attack is on the horizon, knowing what to do to control your asthma –thanks to that action plan – can make all the difference for your peace of mind.

How to Create an Asthma Action Plan?

Your healthcare provider, including primary care providers, is key in creating these plans.

Most patients with asthma are seen in the primary care setting and most primary care providers have access to specific IgE testing.1 And testing to help rule in or rule out allergic sensitizations (and determining what your triggers are, if allergic) is key to coming up with a plan.

Test results are used by your healthcare provider, along with medical history and physical examination, to help manage your asthma.1

That management plan includes being prepared for and even predicting attacks, responses to therapies, and the development of personalized asthma action plans.1

Your healthcare provider will create your asthma action plan with you. You should not create a plan on your own.

Schedule an appointment with your provider to see if specific IgE testing is appropriate for you and to develop an asthma action plan.

Tools for Understanding Allergies


Track allergy symptoms and prepare for a visit with a healthcare provider.

Learn about specific allergens, including common symptoms, management, and relief. 

Are you a healthcare provider? Get comprehensive information on hundreds of whole allergens and allergen components.

  1. Demoly P, Liu A, Rodriguez del Rio P, Pedersen S, Casale T, Price D. A Pragmatic Primary Practice Approach to Using Specific IgE in Allergy Testing in Asthma Diagnosis, Management, and Referral. Journal of Asthma and Allergy. 2002:15 1069-1080.
  2. Pawankar R, Holgate S, Canonica G, at el. World Allergy Organization. White Book on Allergy (WAO). 2011. http://www.worldallergy.org/UserFiles/file/WAO-White-Book-on-Allergy_web.pdf. Accessed December 2022.
  3. NIH Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma, 2007.
  4. Asthma Treatment and Action Plan. NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Updated March 2022. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/asthma/treatment-action-plan. Accessed December 2022.
  5. Pegoraro F, Masini M, Giovannini M, et al. Asthma Action Plans: An International Review Focused on the Pediatric Population. Frontiers in Pediatrics. doi: 10.3389/fped.2022.874935.