What Are The Essential Steps In Monitoring Asthma?

Peak Flow
Peak Flow. Photo © A.D.A.M.

Question: What Are The Essential Steps In Monitoring Asthma?

Answer: In order to monitor your asthma, you need to track and record all your asthma symptoms on a regular basis. Monitoring asthma is an important part of your overall asthma plan. In business, there is an adage that "that which cannot be measured cannot be changed." Your asthma is no different, and monitoring asthma symptoms is a very important part of your overall asthma action plan.

You can monitor asthma in 2 ways:

  1. Peak flow
  2. Symptoms

Multiple studies have shown that monitoring asthma regularly is associated with:

  • Increased use of controller medications
  • Decreased asthma exacerbations
  • Decreased emergency room visits

Monitoring Asthma - What Do I Need To Do?

  1. Make sure you have an asthma action plan. This is essential to controlling your asthma. Asthma care plans are developed with your doctor and are a road map for how your asthma is doing. Based on your monitoring, you may make changes in your medication use.
  2. Record your symptoms. Depending on the type of action plan you and your doctor develop, you may want to record asthma symptoms, peak flow, or both. You can use a form like this to record daily symptoms and triggers. Additionally, the form can be printed to record symptoms such as wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and chronic cough. Additionally, you can record how often you use your medication. If you have an iPhone, you can use AsthmaMD or Asthma Journal to monitor asthma efficiently.
  1. Record your PEFs. Using your peak flow meter, track your peak flow over time. If you and your doctor agreed this is an important part of your asthma monitoring, this simple test can give you powerful information about your asthma control.
  2. Look for changes in asthma symptoms and peak flow. When you experience drops in your peak flow or increases in asthma symptoms, closely follow your asthma action plan. Prompt action based on your asthma action plan may prevent a doctor or ER visit.
  1. Be a detective. If you are dropping onto your yellow or red zone, look back at your asthma diary and ask yourself these questions:
    • Do I see any patterns that might explain symptoms or drops in peak flow?
    • Did I miss taking my medication?
    • Could I have been exposed to triggers that I was unaware of?
    • Did I have symptoms following exercise?
  2. Your diary is not helpful if you forget it at home. When preparing for your next doctor visit, make sure you bring your asthma diary with you to discuss with your doctor. Your doctor can review your diary with you and come up with changes to improve your asthma.


The Cochrane Collaboration. Accessed May 1, 2010. Interventions for educating children who are at risk of asthma-related emergency department attendance.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Accessed: May 1, 2010. Expert Panel Report 3 (EPR3): Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma

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