Managing your child’s symptoms

Keep your child’s risk of symptoms low, and help them stay well while you wait for a diagnosis

Child diagnosis guide - 6 key steps

  1. 4 Testing for asthma
  2. 5 Managing your child's symptoms
  3. 6 Getting a confirmed diagnosis

You don’t need to wait for a confirmed asthma diagnosis to start looking after your child’s symptoms well now.

1. Know what to do if your child has an asthma attack

No one wants to think about their child having an asthma attack. But it can help to know in advance exactly what to do if they do have one.

Even though your child has not yet had their asthma diagnosis confirmed, they could still have an asthma attack. Talk to your child’s GP about the symptoms you need to look out for and when you should call 999.

Call 999 if:

Your child is finding it hard to breathe and their reliever inhaler (usually blue) is not helping, or they need it more than every four hours.

Find out more about asthma attacks, how to spot them coming on, and how to keep your child safe if they have one.

2. Make sure your child’s reliever inhaler is always to hand

Your child’s reliever inhaler (usually blue) gives quick relief when they get symptoms. If your child has an asthma attack, it could be a lifesaver. 

Always keep their reliever inhaler somewhere easy to find and remember to take it with you when you and your child go out, so it’s ready to use when you need it. Don’t forget to ask about a spacer too. A spacer helps your child take their inhaler more easily and get the reliever medicine they need more quickly.

If your child is at school or nursery, ask about keeping a spare reliever inhaler and spacer, there too.

3. Help your child take their preventer inhaler every day as prescribed

If your child’s been given a preventer inhaler, use it every day as prescribed, even if your child seems well.

A preventer inhaler keeps down any inflammation in your child’s airways. Using it every day means they should have fewer or no symptoms, and not react to their usual triggers so much.

If your child is on a ‘trial of treatment’, taking it exactly as prescribed, and keeping an eye on how symptoms improve, will help your GP be clearer about diagnosing asthma.

Try using your child’s preventer inhaler when they do something else every day, like brushing their teeth, so you can get into a good routine. Always make sure they rinse their mouth out well afterwards to avoid common side effects like a sore mouth.

4. Make sure your child is using their inhaler correctly

How your child takes their inhaler can make a real difference to how well they’re managing their symptoms.

  • Ask your GP, asthma nurse, or pharmacist to show you and your child the best way to use their inhaler (and spacer).
  • Watch our videos.
  • Use a spacer with their inhaler (if it’s a pressurised Metered Dose Inhaler (pMDI)

We have lots of tips on helping your child use their inhalers

5. Go to all your child’s appointments

Make the most of all your child’s appointments so you can:

  • talk about any symptoms
  • review any medicines your child is taking
  • talk about anything you're worried about
  • show your child’s symptoms diary or calendar
  • check your child’s action plan is still up to date.

If you feel your child’s symptoms are getting worse or not improving, make an appointment as soon as possible.

Remember to take your child’s inhaler and spacer to every appointment, so they can check your child is using them properly.

6. Follow your child’s asthma action plan

Even if your child has not had a confirmed asthma diagnosis yet, they can still benefit from using an asthma action plan.

Your child’s action plan tells you about the medicines they need to take every day, and what to do if their symptoms flare up or they have an asthma attack.

If your child hasn’t got a plan yet, ask your child’s GP or asthma nurse to fill one out for you.

Why not make copies or save a copy on your phone to share with other people who care for your child.

It’s a good idea to go through your child’s action plan with their teacher, childminder, or nursery worker too, and leave them a copy.

Download a child asthma action plan

7. Tell people your child has ‘suspected asthma’

It can feel hard not being able to say for sure your child has asthma. But at the same time, it’s important that anyone spending time with your child is aware of their symptoms and what to do if they get worse.

Try explaining to people that your child has ‘suspected asthma’ and what that means. You could say something like: “My child sometimes coughs, wheezes, gets breathless or has a tight chest. We think it’s because they have asthma, but we’re waiting for tests to confirm it.”

You can get advice and support about managing your child’s suspected asthma symptoms by calling a respiratory nurse specialist on our Helpline, 0300 222 5800 (9am-5pm; Monday-Friday). Or you can WhatsApp them on 07378 606 728.

Once your child has a confirmed asthma diagnosis, find out more on how you can support them.


Last updated August 2021
Next review due August 2024

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