CNN CNN Health

Your COPD Action Plan

By Hurley, Judith
Content provided by: Better Medicine from Healthgrades

Have you ever had a day when you were coughing more than usual? Or you just had less energy? These can signal a COPD flare-up. By recognizing signs of trouble, you can prevent serious problems. A COPD action plan can help—it tells you exactly what to do when your symptoms act up.

What's an action plan?

An action plan is a written document created by you and your doctor. It lists the symptoms you may have and tells you what to do. This action plan from the American Lung Association (ALA) addresses three "zones":

Green Zone

  • No unusual symptoms

Continue to take your medicines and engage in activities your doctor has approved, like regular exercise

Yellow Zone

  • Your symptoms are worse than usual

  • Tells you signs of trouble to watch for, such as thicker mucus or coughing more than usual

Use quick-relief medicines and take other steps so your symptoms don't get any worse

Red Zone

  • Your symptoms are severe

  • Tells you signs of a serious problem, such as breathlessness, fever, or coughing up excessive mucus or blood

Call 911 or have someone take you to the hospital emergency room

You can get an action plan form by going to the ALA website. Click on "Lung Disease," then "COPD," then "COPD Management Tools," then "My COPD Action/Management Plan." Why not ask your doctor to fill it out with you at your next visit? Having a written plan will give you the green light for peace of mind.

Medical Reviewer: Bass, Pat F. III, MD, MPH Stump-Sutliff, Kim, RN, MSN, AOCNS Last Annual Review Date: 2011-08-30 Copyright: © 2000-2012 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

Reference: Lungs, Breathing and Respiration section on Better Medicine