An Asthma action plan

November 20, 2008 9:25:59 PM PST
Five-year-old Justin Handy is proud. His lungs are strong today.

He has asthma, but his mother has taken clear steps to avoid episodes and potentially scary trips to the hospital.

"I don't worry that much cause he knows what to do. He has a chamber and knows how to use it," Miriam Lopez said.

Dr. Joel Mendelson at Children's Hospital of New Jersey at Newark Beth Israel sees an increase in the number of asthma patients coming in this time of year.

"If your plan is to go to the e-r every time your child is having symptoms, that's a bad plan," he said.

Experts say one of the first things parents need to do it full out a form and leave it on file at a daycare center or at their child's school, for instance.

It's called an Asthma Self-Management Action Plan, a detailed step-by-step guide tailor made for your child.

Depending on what symptoms they're feeling, a flow chart walks you through what medicines to give them and the dosage.

"The child who has a mild cough maybe instructed to use an inhaler. Difficulty breathing maybe advised to use inhaler multiple times," Mendelson explained.

When it comes to Justin, Miriam has done her homework.

"I think it's good for me at his school, at the Y, so whenever he goes they know about him," she said.

Experts say it's vital to also know what medication to list on the form.

The difference between controllers, which are typically taken twice a day at home and keep symptoms at bay, and rescue medications. They are inhalers or pumps used when you are actually feeling bad.

In the end, a dose of planning is worth its weight in gold.

You can download an asthma action plan form by visiting the National Heart and Lung Institute at

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