What Is The Asthma Zone System?

Asthma Action Plan. From NIH Publication No. 07-5251

All asthma action plans have some sort of asthma zone system. Basically this way of monitoring your asthma that uses the colors of a traffic light that is familiar to most of us:

  • Green zone. Some physicians refer to this as the Go Zone.You are doing well and not experiencing much in the way of symptoms or impairment. In this zone your instructions revolve around how to care for your asthma on a daily basis and avoid any worsening of symptoms.

    You are using your controller medications only, but monitoring your asthma for the possibility of stepping up your care.

  • Yellow zone. Some physicians refer to this as the Caution Zone.In this zone you need to exercise caution and closely monitor your asthma for any worsening symptoms. You will likely need to step up your medications and monitoring in order to prevent from entering the red zone.

    Your asthma action plan will often have you using your rescue inhaler here and you will need close, continual monitoring to make sure you do not progress into the red zone.

  • Red zone. Many physicians refer to this as the Danger Zone. Your asthma action plan will give you instructions on how to handle a more severe flare up and instruct you if you need to call your doctor or just head to the emergency room.

    In this zone you should not worry that you might be bothering your doctor or causing problems. Your doctor will want to see you. If you cannot get a hold of your doctor, you will want to consider just heading to the emergency room.

    The zones are different for each patient. If you are using a peak flow based asthma action plan, the zones will generally be a percentage of your personal best peak flow. Generally, your doctor will have you determine this by preforming peak flow twice per day for 2 weeks when well. Whatever the greatest measurement is will be your personal best and used to determine your zones.

    It is important to remember to use the same peak flow meter and preform peak flows at the same time daily.

    If you and your doctor choose to use a symptom based asthma action plan than the zones will be based on frequency of symptoms like cough.

    Why The Colors Of The Stoplight?

    Red, yellow and green are engrained into our minds and safety mentality from a very young age. Ask almost any 4 year old and the can tell you red means stop and green means go.
    As a result the asthma zone system make it really easy for you or your child to figure our what they need to do. Importantly, the system makes it easy to remember when you need to make decisions about what to do.

    Other Signs That Your Asthma May Not Be Optimally Controlled

    In addition to regular monitoring, there are a number of different things that may indicate your asthma is not optimally controlled.

    These include:

    • You need to use your quick relief inhaler more than twice per week due to asthma symptoms such as chest tightness, cough, shortness of breath, or wheezing.
    • Your symptoms do not improve or get worse even after using your quick relief inhaler.
    • You are waking up at night from coughing or wheezing.
    • You are missing work or school due to asthma.
    • You are not able to participate in your normal activities.


    American Lung Association. Create an Asthma Management Plan.

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