Is a written asthma action plan for children necessary?

Parents of children with asthma need ongoing education and guidance on this chronic condition and how to prevent and manage symptoms, but does a written asthma action plan improve outcomes more than ongoing asthma education? Dr. John Kelso explores this question in a recent review published in Pediatric Allergy, Immunology, and Pulmonology.

John M. Kelso, MD, Scripps Clinic (San Diego, CA), states that an asthma action plan is essentially the same for all children–use albuterol for symptoms and call if it is not helping–and can be conveyed orally to parents and caregivers in the home and school settings. Guideline recommendations for elaborate written action plans are based on expert opinion, but published research studies have determined that they do not lead to better asthma outcomes. In the article “Do Written Asthma Action Plans Improve Outcomes?” Dr. Kelso emphasizes the importance of reinforcing asthma education, e.g., how medications work and how to use them, at healthcare visits rather than focusing on written actions plans.

“We have a unique opportunity in pediatrics. Regular discussions with families can improve patient-provider communication and help the affected child and their parents to achieve a greater understanding of their asthma,” says Pediatric Allergy, Immunology, and PulmonologyEditor-in-Chief Mary Cataletto, MD, Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, State University of New York at Stony Brook. Developing asthma self management skills requires discussion and a dedicated time commitment. “Dr. Kelso’s review emphasizes that the key factor is the education.”

The article is available free on the Pediatric Allergy, Immunology, and Pulmonologywebsite until June 13, 2016.