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 symptoms as possible.

Helping you and your child stay on top of asthma  

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 reduce the risk of them having an asthma attack. It’s a chance for you, your child and the GP or asthma nurse to talk about your child’s asthma and any ways you can manage their symptoms better. 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

A review is an important way for you to stay on top of your child’s asthma. Taking your child for their regular review can help you…

1. Manage their symptoms better

Milder 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 playing with their friends or taking part in sports. Children with asthma don’t need to put up with coughing and wheezing.

At their review, you can discover how small tweaks – like a tiny change to the way they use their inhaler - can make a big difference. If their 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. 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. At their review, the GP or asthma nurse may carry out some simple tests, for example a peak flow test, to find out how well they really are – remember that children aren’t always able to explain how they’re feeling. Your GP or asthma nurse will also make sure they’re on the right dose of medicine to keep their symptoms at bay, so they can carry on doing the things they want to do.

3. Feel more confident

A review can help you and the rest of your family feel confident your child’s asthma is well managed. That can be especially important if your child’s recently started school, they’re going away on a school trip or they’re having a sleepover for the first time. Knowing that your child’s asthma is checked regularly, and that they’re getting the most benefits from their medicine, can give you great 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 regular asthma reviews and talking to the GP or asthma nurse about their asthma. If they’re old enough, you could involve them with the review and encourage them to ask a few 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 six months. 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:

  • disturbing their sleep?
  • affecting their normal daily activities, such as school or sport?
  • causing them to use their reliever inhaler (usually blue) more than three times a week?

2. Check your child’s inhalers and make sure they’re on the right treatment and dose. They might reduce or increase the amount of medicine your child takes.

3. Check your child’s inhaler technique. Even a little tweak can help ensure as much of the medicine as possible ends up in your child’s lungs, where it’s needed.

4. Discuss and update your child’s written asthma action plan with you. This is a personalised plan containing the information you need to look after your child’s asthma well. Haven’t got an action plan for your child? Download one and take it with you so your GP or asthma nurse can fill it in with you during the review.

5. Answer any questions or concerns you have.

“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

Your child’s GP or asthma nurse may:

  •  Check your child’s peak flow. The peak expiratory flow test, or PEF, measures how fast they can breathe out. It can show how open your child’s airways are.

Before your 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.

  • Write down any questions you want to ask about your child’s asthma or their treatment. Get your child to think of some questions, too, if they’re old enough. Having a list helps you remember the things you want to bring up – you can take it into the review with you to jog your memory. Don’t leave the review kicking yourself for forgetting something you wanted to know. 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, take a video of them on your phone. Using a video shows your GP or asthma nurse what their asthma symptoms are really like. It’s often easier 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. Every day, you and your child could write down anything you think might be a symptom – you’ll be able to discuss whether it’s linked to your child’s asthma and what you can do about it. Also note down whether they’ve taken their medicine as prescribed and any triggers you spot. 

  • Consider phoning the Asthma UK Helpline on 0300 222 5800 (Mon – Fri, 9am – 5pm) to help you prepare for the review. Our expert nurses can chat through ways to get the most from it. This may be especially helpful if this is your child’s first review, or if you haven’t been happy with reviews in the past. 

What to take with you to your child’s review – your checklist

  • Your child’s written asthma action plan to update – or a new one to fill in, if you don’t already have one for your child
  • Your child’s inhalers and spacer, so their GP or asthma nurse can check their inhaler technique
  • The list of questions you’ve prepared, and a pen and notepad in case you want to make notes

At your child’s review, make sure you:

  • Talk about any concerns you have about your child’s symptoms or their medicine. 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 you go away feeling reassured. Your GP or asthma nurse will want to put your mind at rest.
  • Are honest 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 your child’s preventer inhaler, or you’re not sure you’re using the spacer and inhaler properly, tell your GP or asthma nurse. 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.
  • Understand everything your GP or asthma nurse says. Ask questions to be sure you are clear. Don’t worry that you’re being a nuisance – it’s important you leave feeling sure what to do to manage your child’s symptoms.

Don’t leave your child’s review without:

  • An updated written asthma action plan.
  • Answers to your questions and concerns.
  • Knowing what medicines they need to take and why.
  • Feeling confident they’re using their inhaler(s) and spacer in the right way.
  • Booking their next review, if your GP surgery will allow you to – and making a note of it in your diary. 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 more than three times a week
  • They’re waking at night because of asthma
  • They’re not able to carry out their usual daily activities
  • They’ve missed school because of asthma
  • They have had an asthma attack but haven’t needed to go to hospital

These may all 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 in time.

Within two working days if: 

  • They’ve had to go to hospital with an asthma attack.

In 4-8 weeks if

  • They’ve started a new medicine.
  • Their medicine has been changed or adjusted.

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 it usually starts. Managing hay fever is an important way of managing your asthma and can help ensure they don’t miss school and exams during the summer term. 
  • You want to talk about whether your child should have a flu jab in the autumn. 

At any time if:

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

Last updated January 2018
Next review due May 2019