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Asthma and Action Plans

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An essential part of a GP’s work is controlling long term (chronic) medical conditions. Asthma is a common chronic respiratory condition that can cause a big impact on a person’s wellbeing, and can at times be life threatening. Many asthmatics are resigned to being regularly inconvenienced by poor lung function and frequent emergency visits to a GP or hospital, naïve to what triggers asthma attacks as well as how and when to use treatments available to them.

GPs work diligently to educate asthmatic patients on such matters but this is often not enough. This is where doctors are urged to empower their patients through the use of asthma action plans to ensure patients are receiving the right medication and recognizing when higher amounts of medication are required.  Research has shown how effective action plans can be, especially for children, for controlling asthma. Its benefits include:

  • Reduced chance of needing to go to hospital, or for an urgent GP visit
  • Improved lung function
  • Reduced number of days off work or school due to asthma

Asthma action plans are effectively a contract of written instructions agreed upon by the doctor and patient to gain control of a person’s asthma, documenting:

  • Usual symptoms when well, eg no symptoms, intermittent tight chestedness.
  • Usual management, eg quick action ventolin reliever inhaler, daily preventer inhaler
  • Triggers for worsening asthma, eg pollen, dust, viral infection, cold, exercise.
  • Signs of worsening asthma, eg tight chest, wheeze, cough, increased use of ventolin inhaler.
  • How to manage worsening asthma, eg increased use of a preventer inhaler, oral steroids.
  • Signs of an asthma attack and how & where to access help, eg GP or hospital.

The asthma action plan is given to the patient or parent, is stored in a safe place for future reference and copies given to kinder, school, babysitters, sports coaches, workplaces etc. The patient is urged to study and refer back to the asthma action plan to become an expert in their disease, get to know what works and hopefully achieve a much better control and avoid bad symptoms and asthma attacks entirely. The asthma action plan can be reviewed with their GP yearly to see if any modifications need to be made to assist with asthma control.

For more information visit: http://www.asthmaaustralia.org.au/asthma_action_plan.aspx
Author: Dr Chris Madden, GP, Emerald Medical Centre

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