By: Sally Becker, President, EMT I/C
Becker Training Associates
(Article from ECSI eNews: January 2013)
Do you remember the “Vial of Life” and “File of Life” initiatives, started in the early 1980s? These two programs were created to remind people of the importance of having their medical information easily accessible in case of an emergency. The programs, still used today, encourage people to keep their medical information in a “vial” inside of their refrigerator, or in a “file” on the front of their refrigerator. Both initiatives create a simple way to give EMS providers, and other medical personnel visiting a home, an up-to-date
medical history, a description of prescription medications, and some information about other pertinent issues that the patient might have. With this information in hand, the medical providers may be able to deliver more accurate patient care.
Asthma Action Plans are similar to the Vial and File of Life programs in that they focus on quickly providing accurate information to caregivers and EMS providers in order to help a patient receive more accurate care during an emergency. Each color on an Asthma Action Plan helps to determine the status of the asthmatic. The patient’s family and caregivers can use the color system to decide whether there is a need to transport the patient to the family provider, or to activate the 911 system.
When teaching students, make sure they are aware of asthma facts, and encourage them to talk about Asthma Action Plans with their own medical providers. EMS providers should be sure to ask each patient or family about their Asthma Action Plan – and encourage them to ask for one if they don’t have one already!
Part of our job as educators is to educate our students! They in turn will educate their family, friends, and patients!
Asthma is a chronic disease that can be serious and sometimes life threatening, and can start at any age. It is important that patients are educated about and understand asthma triggers such as allergens, viral infections, air pollution, and aerosolized irritants. Patients should also know how to monitor their symptoms with a peak flow meter. Poor management of asthma can cause airway changes, which can result in permanent scarring and obstruction of the airway.
Asthma Action Plans guide self-management. They should include the patient’s name, emergency contact, medical provider, asthma severity classification, and a list of personal triggers. Symptoms should be outlined, including: cough, wheeze, chest tightness, decrease in daily functional level, and/or increase of symptoms at night.
Levels of an Asthma Action Plan include the following:
• The GREEN ZONE patient is asymptomatic. This zone is where a patient should be on a
• The YELLOW ZONE patient presents with symptoms that are relieved with quick-acting meds.
• The RED ZONE patient has severe symptoms that cannot be relieved by short acting beta agonist drugs. This patient requires immediate medical evaluation or intervention.
The Asthma Action Plan should include a list of medications and indications for using them, as well as directions for what to do in an emergency – call 9-1-1!
Encourage patients to place the Asthma Action Plan on their refrigerator and to have it ready for quick access by EMS.
EMS providers, and family and friends of the patient can ask what ZONE the patient is in. The answer tells it all – it can make a difference in the care and transport of the patient, and can determine the need for advanced level providers. Having an Asthma Action Plan can help eliminate unnecessary 9-1-1 calls, and it can help patients feel that they have more control over their asthma.
Source: American Lung Association.