Yellow zone of asthma

An asthma action plan is a written plan of what to do if you have a sudden increase in your asthma symptoms (asthma attack). The yellow zone may mean that you are having an asthma attack or that your medication needs to be increased.

In the yellow zone, your peak expiratory flow is 50% to 80% of your personal best measurement. To find 80% of your personal best, multiply your personal best measurement by 0.80. For example, if your personal best flow is 400, then 80% of that is 400 times 0.80, which is 320. And 50% of your personal best would be 400 times 0.50, which is 200. You may not have any symptoms, but your lung function is reduced. When symptoms are present, they may be mild to moderate, or may keep you from your usual activities or disturb your sleep. Symptoms can include:

  • Coughing and wheezing.
  • Feeling short of breath and having chest tightness. (Children may express chest tightness as a stomachache.)

Treatment for symptoms in the yellow zone includes the following:

  • Take your medication according to your asthma action plan.
  • If symptoms do not improve within 20 to 60 minutes and your peak expiratory flow remains less than 70% of your personal best measurement, follow the red zone instructions of your asthma action plan, because your lungs are not responding to medication.

If you keep going into the yellow zone from the green zone, talk with your health professional. Your regular medication may need to be changed.

Last Updated: March 20, 2009

Author: Maria G. Essig, MS, ELS

Medical Review: Michael J. Sexton, MD - Pediatrics & Harold S. Nelson, MD - Allergy and Immunology

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