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Expecting the unexpected – building asthma action plans

adult woman using an asthma inhalerSpring is just around the corner and that means that many of us can soon hang up our cold weather gear. The return of warmer weather here in Canada also means increased exposure to many outdoor allergens, as well as more opportunities for physical activity outside. Factors such as these can put individuals with asthma at increased risk for exacerbation; making now a great time to prepare your patients for unexpected asthma attacks.

Asthma Action Plans are simple tools that health care practitioners can use with their asthma patients that allow for effective monitoring, control, and maintenance of symptoms throughout the day.  Moreover, effective implementation of a personalized Asthma Action Plan lets patients know exactly when they should seek urgent medical attention. Proper use of these plans has been shown to support positive outcomes, including:

  • Persons without Asthma Action Plans are 4 times more likely to be admitted to hospital and 2.2 times more likely to visit the emergency department than those with a plan [1]
  • For both children and adults, the use of written Asthma Action Plans has lead to reduced hospitalizations, emergency visits, urgent physician visits, and missed days at work or school [2]
  • Written asthma action plans have been shown to reduce risk of death by 70% [3]

Despite these positive outcomes, only 11% of asthma patients in Canada have received a written plan and only half of those made use of their personalized plans on a regular basis [4]. The good news is this can be easily resolved by taking the time to design and stress the importance of a plan with your asthma patients.

Need help getting started with Asthma Action Plans? Our free program, designed in association with the Lung Association – Ontario, has all the evidence-based information you need to get started. The program also includes fantastic supplementary resources that help providers further prepare patients for the unexpected, such as a Guide to Common Asthma Triggers and a Dosing Table for Inhaled Corticosteroids

[1] Gibson PG, Powell H. Written action plans for asthma: an evidence-based review of the key components. Thorax. 2004;59(2):94-99. doi:10.1136/thorax.2003.011858.

[2] Gibson PG, Powell H, Wilson A, et al. Self-management education and regular practitioner review for adults with asthma. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2002;(3). doi:10.1002/14651858.cd001117.

[3] Abramson MJ, Bailey MJ, Couper FJ, et al. Are Asthma Medications and Management Related to Deaths from Asthma? American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. 2001;163(1):12-18. doi:10.1164/ajrccm.163.1.9910042.

[4] Fitzgerald JM, Boulet L-P, Mcivor RA, Zimmerman S, Chapman KR. Asthma Control in Canada Remains Suboptimal: The Reality of Asthma Control (TRAC) Study. Canadian Respiratory Journal. 2006;13(5):253-259. doi:10.1155/2006/753083.