What to Teach Patients and Their Families About Asthma

May 6, 2010

What do you need to know about asthma, and what should you teach your patients about its prevention and management? This month’s CE article gives a comprehensive and accessible overview, with medication, symptom, and common allergen tables, as well as advice like the following about the use of “action plans,” which may be particularly helpful with patients with “moderate or severe persistent asthma, a history of exacerbations, or poorly controlled asthma.” 

Action plans should be simple and easy to use. Many use a traffic light analogy, describing green, yellow, and red zones for which specific actions are prescribed. In the green (“go”) zone, patients’ [peak expiratory flow rate] PEFR is 80% to 100% of their personal best and they have no symptoms. These patients can continue using their daily medications and taking steps to limit exposure to triggers, as described in their plan. When patients’ PEFR is 50% to 80% of their personal best and they have symptoms, they’ve entered the yellow (“caution”) zone, and practitioners may consider prescribing alternative antiinflammatory medications and, possibly, a higher dose or more frequent use of the rescue medication. Patients whose PEFR drops below 50% of their personal best and whose symptoms fail to improve significantly with prescribed rescue medications are in the red (“danger–stop”) zone. They should increase medication as indicated in their action plan and call their health care provider immediately. If unable to reach their provider, they should stop what they’re doing and go directly to the nearest ED.

How are you doing with helping your patients and their families manage asthma?

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