Understanding what your GP said at your child’s first appointment

Here we answer some of the questions you might have after your child’s first GP appointment.

Child diagnosis guide - 6 key steps

  1. 1 Spotting symptoms
  2. 2 Preparing to talk to your GP
  3. 3 Understanding what your GP said

Why can’t the doctor tell me it’s asthma?

It can take time to confirm an asthma diagnosis, particularly if your child is under five and unable to do asthma tests yet. Your GP may want to arrange some tests if your child is old enough and able to do them. Or to try out some asthma treatment for a few weeks. This is known as a trial of treatment and is a safe and helpful way to help with a diagnosis for your child.

The doctor will want to rule out other conditions too, like bronchiolitis, which also causes coughing and wheezing.

Try not to worry if your child hasn’t got a diagnosis yet. The doctor can still help you manage your child’s symptoms. You can also get support and advice from our Helpline. You can also help things along by tracking their symptoms and making sure your child takes any medicines they’ve been prescribed.

The GP says my child has ‘suspected asthma’ - what does this mean?

Your GP might say your child has ‘suspected asthma’. This is because, based on what you’ve told them and your child’s symptoms, it looks likely that your child has asthma.

But your child will need to do some tests, or a trial of treatment, to confirm a diagnosis.

In the meantime, your child’s GP can help you manage your child’s symptoms while you wait, and will do what they can to work towards a clear diagnosis. And you can get more advice and support from our Helpline.

The GP said we should try a ‘trial of treatment’ - what does this mean?

If your child is having symptoms, their GP may suggest a trial of treatment. This is when the doctor starts your child on a very low dose of asthma medicines to see if they help.

You may need to give your child asthma medicines for about six weeks to see if they’re making a difference or not. After about six to eight weeks, you should get a follow-up appointment to talk about how things are going.

  • If the medicines seem to have made a difference, it’s likely your child has asthma. Your GP may carry on with the same medicines until your child is able to do asthma tests to confirm a diagnosis.
  • If the medicines do not seem to have helped, then your GP will first check if your child is using the inhaler well and has been sticking to their treatment plan. If they have, but the medicines still have not made a difference, the GP will look into what else may be causing the symptoms. They may also suggest your child stops taking their asthma medicines.

The GP said we should ‘watch and wait’ - why aren’t they doing something?

If your child only has mild symptoms, such as wheezing now and again, usually with a cold, your GP may suggest ‘watchful waiting'. This doesn’t mean your GP is not taking it seriously. They will still want to keep a close eye on any symptoms, and when they happen.

During this time, your child may be given a reliever inhaler to use if they get symptoms. If your child has not got a reliever inhaler, ask your GP if they need one.

The GP will want to see your child again after an agreed amount of time, to check if anything has changed, look again at symptoms your child’s been getting, and whether the reliever inhaler helped.

It’s a good time to keep a symptom diary or calendar. The more information you can give to your child’s GP at your child’s follow-up appointment, the easier it will be for them to work out if asthma is likely or not. Don’t forget, our friendly respiratory nurse specialists are here to support you too.

My child’s been given a reliever inhaler – what’s it for?

Any child with asthma, or suspected asthma, should be prescribed a reliever inhaler. It gives quick relief when your child has symptoms and opens their airways so they can breathe more easily.

If your child has an asthma attack, their reliever inhaler can be a lifesaver. That’s why it’s important to always keep it handy, so they can use it as soon as they have any symptoms.

If your child has been given a pressurised Metered Dose Inhaler (pMDI) as their reliever inhaler, it’s best to use it with a spacer. Spacers make it easier to use and help the medicine get to your child’s airways.

If you’re not sure how to use your child’s inhaler or spacer, ask your GP, asthma nurse or pharmacist. You can also watch our videos.

The GP said to track my child’s symptoms - how do I do that?

It’s easy to keep a record of your child’s symptoms over time. Just take a note of your child’s symptoms and when they get them, so you have a symptom diary to show your child’s GP. It’ll really help you and your child’s GP to know if asthma is more likely.

You can get advice and support about getting a diagnosis for your child 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.


Last updated August 2021
Next review due August 2024

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