Not sure what medicines to take and when, or what to do if you start having symptoms? Don’t want to end up in hospital with an asthma attack? There's good evidence to show that a written asthma action plan, which your GP or asthma nurse should complete with you, is the best thing you can do to keep well with your asthma.
You may be wondering how a piece of paper can really make a difference. But a written asthma action plan is a core part of asthma management. The medical guidelines doctors follow recommend that everyone with asthma has a written asthma action plan. Our annual asthma survey told us that 42 per cent now receive asthma action plans, almost double the number who received them in 2013.
A written asthma action plan includes all the information you need to look after your asthma well, so you're likely to have fewer symptoms and significantly cut your risk of an asthma attack. This is why we want more people with asthma to benefit from using one.
Are you the parent of a child under 12? There are lots of tips on getting the best from a child's asthma action plan here.
Stay out of hospital
"We know that if you use a written asthma action plan you’re four times less likely to be admitted to hospital for your asthma," says Asthma UK’s Head of Helpline. "If you want to stay on top of your asthma, make sure you get an action plan as part of your asthma review. It doesn’t take long to discuss and write up an asthma action plan with your GP or asthma nurse, and once you have one it can make a real difference."
Keep on top of asthma symptoms
Your written asthma action plan doesn’t just reduce your risk of needing emergency treatment. Research shows having an asthma management strategy that includes an action plan can help in other ways. You’re less likely to have symptoms, and to need time off work or school. Overall, it can improve your quality of life. In other words, having a written asthma action plan is a very simple way to help prevent asthma from getting in the way of your daily life, so you can stay symptom-free and do more of the things you want to do.
In an Asthma UK report, 58 per cent of people who reported seeking help for their asthma – either at A&E or from their GP practice – did not have a written asthma action plan.
Why is it so helpful?
Still not sure exactly how an action plan makes such a difference? You can use it to:
- pinpoint the signs that show your asthma’s getting worse, so you can get help quickly and cut your risk of having an asthma attack
- understand when and how to take your medicine to keep your asthma well managed
- get on top of your asthma again if you haven’t been using your preventer inhaler as prescribed
- be sure what to do if you have an asthma attack
- monitor your asthma day to day
- let your friends and family know what to do in an emergency – show your action plan to those closest to you
- check when your next review is due
- keep a note of your GP/asthma nurse’s contact number.
What if my asthma changes - won't the plan go out of date?
Your asthma action plan should be reviewed and updated at least once a year at your asthma review. You need to remember to take it with you to every asthma appointment - including any A&E or consultant visits - so that if there are any changes to the way you need to look after your asthma, your plan can be updated. It’s also useful for A&E staff to be able to glance at the information in your action plan, especially if you’re finding it difficult to talk due to your due symptoms.
Get the best from your action plan!
- Download an adult action plan or a child action plan.
- Discuss and fill it in with your GP or asthma nurse – they’ll make sure each section is personalised for you or your child, which ensures it’s safe and effective.
- Take it to all your asthma reviews and appointments – your GP or asthma nurse may need to update it.
- Keep it where you can find it easily – on the fridge, for example, or take a photo of it on your phone so you have it with you everywhere.
- Share copies with anyone who might find it useful or comforting to know how they can help you, such as your partner or a friend you’re travelling with.
Use it, don't lose it!
Once you've got your asthma action plan, keep it somewhere handy at home so you and your family can refer to it quickly. Make a copy of it that you can carry around with you. Save an image of your completed action plan on your phone - it's another way to make sure you can check it whenever and wherever you need to.
What do people with asthma say about it?
"My written asthma action plan enables me to make a proper judgement about how well I am - and crucially, it has given me much more confidence with my GP," says Vicki Shenton. "I take it to the appointment and say I am at 'x' point on the plan and this is what I need from you."
"I wasn't given all that much information about my asthma so I found it hard to gauge how serious my symptoms were," says Joel Hammond. "Now my action plan tells me when I need to go to the hospital and when I don't. I would advise anyone with asthma to get themselves a plan and keep it on them at all times, as well as give a copy to those close to them."
"My written asthma action plan has made me feel much more in control of my condition," says Louise Degenhart. "Earlier this year, I had an asthma attack and needed to go to hospital. I found it very helpful being able to show the doctors in A&E my written asthma action plan to quickly update them on my condition. It also encouraged them to really listen to me and take my asthma more seriously."
“The asthma action plan I wrote with my consultant and asthma nurse helps me to keep on top of everything. They say in A&E that I come with written instructions!” says Jenny Negus. “Joking aside, it's actually very helpful to hand over my plan with details of my history, medication, doses, times - when I'm in the middle of an attack and finding it difficult to breathe and talk."
What other resources help, alongside an asthma action plan?
Our complete self-management pack 'Your Asthma' contains an asthma action plan, a peak flow diary, an 'Asthma and me' booklet, and a guide to an asthma review. Find out more and download all these resources here.
To request a printed asthma action plan, or a complete Your Asthma pack, please call 0300 222 5800 and select option 2.
You can also call the Asthma UK Helpline on 0300 222 5800 (9am - 5pm; Mon - Fri) - Talk to one of our specialist asthma nurses about the best way to look after your asthma.
Last updated May 2016
Next review due May 2019