Young girl with female doctor at doctor's surgery

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

A GP or asthma nurse can work with you to help your child live with as few asthma symptoms as possible.

Why your child needs regular asthma reviews

What to expect from your child’s asthma review

Before your child’s asthma review

3 things to take to your child’s asthma review

At your child’s asthma review

The other times your child should see their GP or asthma nurse

An asthma review is an appointment with your child’s GP or asthma nurse to check their asthma is as well managed as possible and cut the risk of them having an asthma attack. "It’s a chance for you, your child and their GP or asthma nurse to talk about your child’s asthma and any ways you can manage their symptoms better," says Dr Andy Whittamore, Asthma UK's in-house GP. "Your child should have an asthma review at least once a year even if they haven’t been having symptoms."

 

Why your child needs regular asthma reviews

Taking your child for their asthma reviews can help you…

1. Manage their asthma symptoms better

Milder asthma symptoms like occasional coughing and wheezing may not seem serious. But they can get in the way of your child doing some of the things they enjoy, like school sports or playing with their friends. "Children with asthma don’t need to put up with coughing or wheezing," says Dr Andy. "Your child’s asthma review is a chance to get the individual advice your child needs to get rid of any symptoms." 

If your child's symptoms get worse or they even end up having an asthma attack, you might look back and wish you’d taken them to their review. Don’t risk that happening.

2. Help keep them symptom-free

If your child doesn’t have any asthma symptoms, that’s great – you’re doing a good job of managing their asthma. But a review can help to keep them symptom-free in the future. Asthma symptoms can come and go, and your child’s asthma can change over time, especially as they get older. 

3. Feel more confident

An asthma review can help you and all the family feel confident your child’s asthma is well managed. This can be especially important if your child’s recently started nursery or school, they go on school trips or they have sleepovers. Knowing that your child’s asthma is checked regularly, and that they’re getting all the benefits from their medicines, can give you peace of mind.

4. Get your child into good habits

One day, your child will have to manage their asthma on their own. So it’s a good idea to make sure they’re used to going to asthma reviews each year and talking to the GP or asthma nurse about their asthma. If they’re old enough, you could encourage them to ask questions. This will help them – and you – feel more confident that they’ll be able to manage their own asthma when they’re older.

“We can’t avoid cold weather, colds or dust so I know 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

Your child’s GP or asthma nurse will:

1. Ask about your child’s asthma symptoms. For example, are they:

  • waking them up at night?
  • affecting their normal daily activities, such as school or sport?
  • causing them to need their reliever inhaler (usually blue) three or more times a week?

2. Review your child’s medicines. They might change your child's treatment, or reduce or increase the amount of medicine your child takes.

3. Check your child’s using their inhaler and spacer in the right way. 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 through and update your child’s written asthma action plan. This is a personalised plan of what you need to do to look after your child’s asthma well. Haven’t got an action plan for your child? Download one and take it to the review so your GP or asthma nurse can fill it in with you.

5. Answer any questions or concerns you have. Talk to them about anything that worries you or that you don't understand. "There's no such thing as a stupid question," says Dr Andy.

Your child’s GP or asthma nurse may also:

  •  Check your child’s peak flow. The peak expiratory flow test, or PEF, measures how fast your child can breathe out. This shows the doctor how well their lungs are working.

“I take the boys for an asthma review every six months. I usually get a double appointment so I can get them checked together to save time. The asthma nurse updates their asthma 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 

Before your child's asthma review

"If you and your child take a bit of time to prepare for the review, you’re likely to get what you need from it," says Dr Andy.

  • Note down any questions you want to ask about your child’s asthma or treatment. Get your child to think of some questions, too, if they’re old enough. Taking a list into the review helps jog your memory. Then you won't leave the review kicking yourself for forgetting to ask something. For example, you might want to ask:

"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?"

  • If your child has asthma symptoms, video them on your phone. Watching a video means your child's GP or asthma nurse can see what their asthma symptoms are really like. It’s often easier and quicker than trying to describe them. And you may only have 20 minutes for your child’s review so this can save precious appointment time.
  • You might find it helpful to keep a symptom and peak flow diary for a month before your child’s review. This will give you and your GP or asthma nurse a clear picture of how they're doing. Every day, you and your child could write down anything you think might be a symptom – you’ll then be able to talk about whether it’s linked to your child’s asthma and what you can do about it. Also note down whether they’ve taken their asthma medicines every day exactly as prescribed and any triggers you spot.

  • Consider chatting to the friendly, expert Asthma UK nurses. You can phone the Asthma UK Helpline on 0300 222 5800 or message via WhatsApp on 07378 606 728 (Monday–Friday, 9am–5pm) to help you prepare for the review. 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.  

3 things to take to your child’s asthma review

  1. your child’s written asthma action plan to update – or a new one to fill in, if your child doesn’t already have one
  2. your child’s inhalers and spacer, so their GP or asthma nurse can check their inhaler technique
  3. the list of questions you’ve written, and your phone or a pen and notepad in case you want to make notes 

At your child’s asthma review 

  • Talk through any concerns you have about your child’s asthma symptoms or their medicines. Make sure your child has a chance to talk about anything that’s bothering them, too. Even if the worry seems small, don’t be afraid to bring it up. It’s important for you both to go away feeling reassured. Your GP or asthma nurse will want to put your mind at rest.
  • Tell your child's GP or asthma nurse if you’re finding it difficult to manage your child’s asthma. For example, if you have found it hard to get into a routine with their preventer inhaler, or you’re not sure they’re using the spacer and inhaler properly. "They’ve spoken to lots of parents about these sorts of difficulties and will want to find a way to help you manage your child’s asthma better," says Dr Andy.
  • Ask questions if you don’t understand everything your GP or asthma nurse says. "You are not a nuisance!" says Dr Andy. "It’s important you feel sure you know what to do to manage your child’s asthma well before you leave."

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's using their inhaler(s) and spacer in the right way.
  • booking your child's next review, if your GP surgery will allow you to – and making a note of it in your diary. Why not ask if there’s a text or email reminder service?

The other times your child should see their GP or asthma nurse

Today if:

  • their symptoms are getting worse
  • they’re using their blue reliever inhaler three or more times a week
  • they’re waking up at night because of asthma symptoms
  • they’re not able to carry out their usual daily activities, including exercise
  • they’ve missed school because of asthma symptoms
  • they have had an asthma attack but haven’t needed to go to hospital

These are likely to be signs your child’s asthma has got worse. They may even be at risk of having a potentially life-threatening asthma attack. So don’t risk looking back and wishing you’d got help earlier.

Within two working days if: 

  • they’ve left hospital after an asthma attack.

In 4-8 weeks if

  • they’ve started a new medicine.
  • their medicine has been changed
  • they have been prescribed a new dose of medicine

After 12 weeks if:

  • they’ve had no symptoms and haven’t used their reliever inhaler – the GP or asthma nurse may decide to reduce their medicine.

According to seasonal triggers if:

  • your child gets hay fever - go the month before the 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. 
  • you want to talk about whether your child should have a flu jab – usually between September and early November. 

At any time if:

  • you have any concerns about your child’s asthma – for example, you have questions about their asthma medicines or you’re worried their inhaler device is no longer the right one for them.

Last reviewed June 2019
Next review due June 2022