Dealing with your child’s symptoms while waiting for a diagnosis

Tips for keeping your child safe and symptom free when they have suspected asthma

It can be worrying if your child has suspected asthma and you're waiting for an asthma diagnosis. But you can help reduce your child’s symptoms and make sure they stay well, even though they don’t have a diagnosis of asthma yet by following our 8-point plan.

Remembering medicines and going to appointments might seem confusing and stressful at first. But you’ve coped with new routines with before, like potty training and teeth-brushing – with time, you’ll get asthma care sorted, too.

1. Get prepared for asthma attacks

The thought of your child having an asthma attack can be scary, but you’ll feel safer knowing exactly what to do if they’re struggling for breath.

It might help you feel more confident if you print and pin our asthma attack advice somewhere obvious at home or download it onto your phone, so it’s always ready for you to check.

Some people have told us they feel embarrassed about calling an ambulance – but please, don’t take your child to hospital yourself. Calling 999 is safest because the paramedics can treat your child in the ambulance.

Sonia Munde, our Head of Helpline, says: "Getting the right help when you need it is not a waste of time – an asthma attack is a real emergency that can be life threatening if it isn’t treated quickly and properly. You're not a nuisance or bothering anyone."

Find out more about asthma attacks and how to spot them

2. Keep their reliever inhaler handy

Add your child’s reliever inhaler (usually blue) to the list of things you take when you leave the house, like your phone and keys. You could keep one in the house, one in the car and one at school, just in case. Bring their spacer too – it makes giving them their reliever inhaler much easier.

"We feel as long as we remember to take our reliever inhalers with us wherever we go, we make sure asthma doesn't rule our lives."
Jayne, mum to teenagers George and Lena, who both have asthma.

3. Sort out a basic preventer inhaler routine

Remembering to give your child their preventer inhaler can be difficult with everything else going on. Here are some top tips from other parents:

  • Keep the inhaler by their bed and get them to use it morning and evening, perhaps when they dress and undress.
  • If other people in the house take inhalers, try to make it something you do together. This helps you all remember but also makes it part of family life.
“Little things help us now like using our phone alarms to remind us when James needs to take his inhaler, or to check him through the night. We also text each other if James needs more of his inhaler so we both have a time record of his treatment.”
Kelly, mum of James, 5.

Find out how preventer inhalers work

4. Help your child use their inhalers and spacer

Inhalers can be tricky to use properly, especially for small children. Using a spacer makes it a lot easier!

Here are some hacks from other parents:

  • Give your child the inhaler and spacer to play with and get used to before they have to use them.
  • Let your child decorate the inhaler and spacer with stickers – maybe even give them names.
  • Pretend to use the inhaler and then get your child to copy. Ask everyone in the house, even teddy, to have a go.
  • Make an enormous fuss, with applause and cheering, when your child uses their inhaler. You could even try rewarding them with treats or stickers.

Check your child’s technique with our inhaler videos.

5. Make the most of your doctor or nurse appointments

While you wait for a diagnosis you’re likely to be in and out of your GP’s surgery. Your doctor will probably want to review medication – and your child’s action plan – around every eight weeks. If you feel your child’s symptoms are getting worse or not improving, make an appointment sooner.

Remember to take your child’s inhaler and spacer to every appointment, so they can check your child is using them properly. Good inhaler technique can have a big impact on how well they work.

“I keep a list of James’ symptoms, treatments, and any questions as I think of them. It helps us feel like we have some control over what’s happening, especially when James has a lot of hospital admissions.”
Kelly, mum to James, 5

6. Use your child’s asthma action plan to stay on top of everything

You discuss and fill in your child’s personalised asthma action plan with their GP or asthma nurse. It explains everything from your child’s daily medicines to what to do if they have an asthma attack.

If you don’t have an action plan, you can download one to take to your next appointment.

The action plan is reviewed at each of your child’s appointments. Take a photo of it to keep on your phone and keep it pinned to the fridge.

“I keep a few copies of Felix’s action plan myself, give one to his teachers and put one in his bag for when he goes to a friend’s house. It’s such a relief to know people can use it if he has an asthma attack when I’m not there.”
Tracy, mum to Felix.

7. Talk to their school and family about suspected asthma

Being open about your child’s symptoms means people will feel more comfortable having your child in their care. You might feel so worried you don’t want to let your child out of your sight. But relaxing and having time for yourself will make you better able to cope in the long run.

Send a photo of your child’s asthma action plan to grandparents, babysitters and school friends’ parents. Then, they’ll know if they need to give your child their inhaler, what an asthma attack looks like, and when to get help.

It’s a good idea to go through your child’s action plan with their teacher too and leave them a copy so that they can refer to it later.

Explaining suspected asthma

If people are confused when you tell them your child has ‘suspected asthma’ you could say something like:

“My child sometimes coughs, wheezes, get breathlessness or has a tight chest. We think it’s because he/she has asthma, but we’re still trying to find out. While we wait, we have to do some things to look after him/her.”

8. Get tips and advice from other parents on Asthma UK Parents’ Facebook Page

“Asthma UK’s website and Facebook page have been a real comfort blanket for me. They’re somewhere I can go to where people know what we’re dealing with, and I can be reminded that there are other parents out there in similar situations.”
Fiona whose son Jack, 12, has had life-threatening asthma attacks.

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