Young girl with female doctor at doctor's surgery

How to get the best from your child’s asthma review

Taking your child to their asthma review helps lower their risk of symptoms and an asthma attack

When does your child go for an asthma review?

Why it's good to take your child to their asthma review

What to expect from your child's asthma review

How to get the most out of your child's asthma review

Seeing your child's GP or asthma nurse at other times

When does your child go for an asthma review?

Your child should have an asthma review at least once every year to help lower their risk of an asthma attack.

Even if your child’s doing well with their asthma, take them along to their review. Their GP or asthma nurse can help them stay well.

And if your child has been free of symptoms for a while, they may be able to reduce the dose of their preventer medicine.

“You don't need to wait for your child’s annual review to see the GP or asthma nurse about their asthma,” says Dr Andy Whittamore, Asthma UK’s in-house GP. “If you're worried about anything you can make an appointment at any time.”

Why it's good to take your child to their asthma review

Going to a regular asthma review can cut your child’s risk of having an asthma attack.

It’s a chance for you and your child’s GP or asthma nurse to talk about your child’s asthma and any ways you can manage their symptoms better.

This is a great opportunity to talk to your child’s GP about:

  • symptoms getting in the way of your child enjoying school, sports or playing with friends
  • asthma attacks and how to reduce the risk
  • medicines and how they can help keep your child symptom-free
  • side effects you’re worried about, or that you’ve noticed
  • allergies like hay fever, or food allergies, if you think they’re making your child’s asthma worse.

“We can’t avoid cold weather, colds or dust so the best way of keeping the boys’ asthma under control is by taking them to asthma reviews with the asthma nurse every year. We sometimes see our GP in between, too.” Anna, mum to Gabriel, 10, and Beau, 5. 

What to expect from your child's asthma review

At your child’s asthma review your child’s GP or asthma nurse may:

1. Ask a few questions about your child’s asthma symptoms

The questions they ask help to give your child’s GP a good idea of how your child’s asthma is. 

For example:

  • Do symptoms wake up your child in the night?
  • Does your child take their reliever inhaler three or more times a week?
  • Does their asthma stop them enjoying every day activities such as school or sport?

2. Carry out some tests

These are simple breathing tests like peak flow where you can see the results straight away. They can show the GP or asthma nurse how well your child’s lungs are.  

3. Check how your child uses their inhaler and spacer

Even a little tweak can help make sure as much of the medicine as possible ends up in your child’s lungs, where it’s needed. In between appointments you can use the Asthma UK inhaler videos to help them stay on the right track.

4. Talk about your child’s medicines

You and your GP can check if the medicines your child is taking are still the best treatment option for them. And you can also ask about any side effects you’ve noticed or are worried about.

5. Talk about ways to keep your child’s asthma attack risk low

Your child’s GP or asthma nurse will talk to you about any asthma attacks your child has had. And talk about how well your child’s asthma is controlled now.

For example, do you feel like you and your child have a good routine for taking their preventer inhaler?  Is your child exposed to triggers like cigarette smoke, pollution or mould?

Your child’s GP or asthma nurse will also want to know how often your child uses their reliever inhaler. If they’re taking it three or more times a week it’s a sign their asthma is not well-controlled and that they could be at risk of an asthma attack. 

6. Check your child’s height and weight

Guidelines recommend your child’s height and weight are checked at every asthma review. This is because there’s a link between taking inhaled steroids and your child’s growth.

This depends on how old your child was when they started taking steroids, what dose they take and how long they’ve been taking them. And the reduction in growth is considered to be very small - about half a centimetre during their first year of treatment.

7. Update your child’s written asthma action plan

An up to date asthma action plan means you, and others who care for your child, know how to keep them well with their asthma.  It’s also a key tool for reminding yourself, and telling others, what to do if your child has asthma symptoms or an asthma attack.

If you haven’t started using an action plan for your child yet, download one here and take it to your child’s next asthma appointment. Your child’s GP or asthma nurse can fill it in with you.

“I take the boys for an asthma review every year. I usually get a double appointment so I can get them checked together to save time. The asthma nurse updates their asthma action plans and checks their inhaler technique. It’s reassuring to know that we’re doing everything we can to stay on top of their asthma.” Shakeela, mum to two boys with asthma

How to get the most out of your child's asthma review

Don’t worry if you don’t have time to prepare for your child’s review. The main thing is to get there.

But if you can do one or more of these things before you go, it’ll help you get the most out of your child’s appointment. 

Three things to do before your appointment

1. Write down any questions you want to ask

It’s easy to forget things once you’re in the appointment. Having a list of the key questions you want to ask can help you get what you want from your child’s appointment.

Examples include:

  • "How can I help my child cope better with their triggers?"
  • "What should I do if my child’s symptoms get worse?"
  • "What do I need to tell my child’s teachers?"
  • “Should my child have the flu vaccine?”

Get your child to think of some questions, too, if they’re old enough,” says Dr Andy.

2. Keep a record of your child’s symptoms

Make a calendar, or list, of any symptoms your child has had, and what was going on at the time. For example, you might notice they were coughing a lot after running around with a friend in the park.

If you can do this for about a month it can give your child’s GP or asthma nurse a good picture of your child’s asthma, and help you spot any patterns.

You can also note down when your child needed their reliever inhaler to deal with symptoms.

Try taking a short video on your phone when your child is having symptoms. This is a helpful way to show your child’s GP or asthma nurse what your child’s asthma symptoms are really like. And it can be easier and quicker than trying to describe them.

“Filming symptoms can be a useful way to show your GP what's going on. But don't delay giving your child treatment or getting help,” says Dr Andy.  

3. Talk to one of our friendly asthma nurse specialists

You can call our Helpline on 0300 222 5800 (Mon–Fri, 9am–5pm). Or you can message via WhatsApp on 07378 606728.  

They can talk through what you hope to get out of your child’s asthma review and help you prepare for it.

This may be especially helpful if this is your child’s first review, or if you haven’t been happy with a review in the past. 

At your child’s asthma review

Your asthma review is your chance to help your child stay well with their asthma and make sure you have the support you need to help them.

What to take:

  • Your child’s written asthma action plan – or a new one to fill in – so you can get it updated
  • Your child’s inhalers and spacer, so the GP or asthma nurse can check their inhaler technique

During the appointment:

  • Be open about anything you’re finding difficult like getting into a good routine with their preventer inhaler or avoiding your child’s asthma triggers, for example if anyone in the family smokes around your child.
  • Ask the questions you want to ask, and double check if there’s anything you don’t understand. It’s important you feel sure about what you need to do to help your child manage their asthma well.
  • Encourage your child to ask their own questions if they’re old enough. It’s helpful for them to get used to talking about their asthma and understanding how they need to look after it.

Don’t leave your child’s asthma review without:

  • an updated written asthma action plan
  • answers to your questions and concerns
  • knowing what medicines your child needs to take and why
  • feeling confident your child is using their inhaler(s) and spacer in the right way
  • booking your child’s next review, if your GP surgery lets you. If you can’t book it now, put a reminder in your diary to prompt you to book it next year. Why not ask if there’s a text or email reminder service?

Seeing your child's GP or asthma nurse at other times

“If your child's having asthma symptoms, don't wait for their annual check. Give your surgery a call and get seen sooner,” says Dr Andy. “ And make an appointment any time you’re worried about their symptoms or their medicines.”

As well as taking your child to their annual asthma review, you may need to take them to their GP or asthma nurse at other times:

Make sure you see your child’s GP or asthma nurse about their asthma within 24 hours if:

  • your child's symptoms are getting worse
  • they’ve had to use their blue reliever inhaler three or more times a week
  • they’ve been waking up at night due to asthma symptoms
  • they’re not able to carry out their usual daily activities, including exercise
  • they’ve missed school because of asthma symptoms
  • they’ve had an asthma attack that you managed at home

See your child's GP or asthma nurse within two working days if: 

  • they needed to go to hospital with an asthma attack. The hospital should let your child’s GP know about the attack and set up a follow up appointment. But get in touch with the GP surgery yourself to make sure.

Go back to the GP in four to eight weeks if:

  • they’ve started a new medicine
  • their medicine has been changed
  • the doctor has prescribed them a new dose.

If your child gets hay fever, see their GP a month before their symptoms usually start. 

Managing hay fever is an important way of managing your child’s asthma and can help make sure they don’t miss school and exams during the spring and summer terms. 

 

Last updated October 2019
Next review due October 2022