If your child’s asthma is managed well, it’s likely they can do all the things they enjoy without asthma symptoms getting in the way.
Your child’s GP or asthma nurse prescribes medicines, updates your child’s written asthma action plan at regular reviews, helps you work out your child’s triggers and keeps a record of your child’s asthma over time. Your role, and how you look after your child’s asthma in-between appointments, is crucial too.
“You can cut your child’s risk of having asthma symptoms or an asthma attack dramatically by making sure they take their medicines every day as prescribed,” says Asthma UK’s in-house GP, Dr Andy Whittamore. “It can be hard to do that in a busy day, so here are our top tips for making it easier.”
1. Get to know your child’s asthma medicines
Make sure you, and anyone else looking after your child, understands what medicines your child needs to take for their asthma and why they help. If you know how they work to protect your child’s airways, you’ll be more likely to make sure they take them as prescribed. Usually, your child will need to take a preventer inhaler (or other preventer medicine) every day, and a reliever inhaler (usually blue) for when they get asthma symptoms.
- Your child’s written asthma action plan is a good reminder of the medicines your child needs to take.
- If you have any questions about why your child has these medicines and how they work to help stop symptoms, book an appointment with their GP or asthma nurse. Or you can pop into your local pharmacy – the pharmacist can answer questions about medicines without you booking an appointment.
2. Ease any worries you have about your child’s medicines
If you’ve got any concerns about your child’s asthma medicines, you might be less likely to give them to your child every day exactly as prescribed. Instead of hiding any worries, it’s helpful to share them with somebody who can reassure you.
Why not speak to:
- Your child’s GP, asthma nurse or consultant
- Our friendly asthma nurse specialists (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm): call 0300 222 5800, WhatsApp 07378 606728
3. Get into a good routine with your child’s preventer medicine
Getting your child to take their preventer medicine at the same times in the same place every day means it will become part of their everyday routine, and they’ll be less likely to forget. These tips might help:
- If your child needs to take their preventer inhaler twice a day, why not get them to take it after they clean their teeth every morning and evening. Don't forget to encourage them to rinse out their mouth after taking it. Putting a sticker on your child’s toothbrush or bedside light can help remind you and them about their asthma medicines.
- It’s a good idea to watch while your child takes their inhaler to make sure they’re using the right inhaler technique.
- Make sure you keep spare inhalers and spacers in places your child visits often. It’s worth leaving a spare reliever inhaler and spacer with school, at grandparents’ houses and at your ex-partner’s house if you’re separated, for example.
4. Take your child’s reliever inhaler and spacer EVERYWHERE
Taking your child’s reliever inhaler (usually blue) and spacer everywhere means they’ll have them to hand to use immediately if they get asthma symptoms. Before you/they step outside the front door, get into the habit of:
- Checking you’ve got them with you
- Setting a phone reminder to go off just before you’re planning to leave the house
- Sticking a note on the inside of the front door or above your key hook to prompt you to check
- Asking your child if they’re older and going to be away from you for the day: ‘Have you got your inhaler and spacer with you?’
- Some parents have told us it helps a younger child to keep their blue reliever inhaler and spacer in a special bag, rucksack or lunch box that’s decorated with their child’s favourite superhero – if your child likes carrying the bag, it will encourage them to remember to take it everywhere.
“Mornings can be a nightmare because George and Lena have to get the school bus for 7.15 so we’re always rushing. I ask them if they’ve taken their inhalers just as they’re walking out the door! Normally they say yes because leaving them out on their bedside tables reminds them. But I always ask them just in case…” Jayne, whose children George and Lena both have asthma
Remember – your child only needs to use their blue reliever inhaler if they get asthma symptoms. If they use it three or more times a week, it’s a sign their asthma is not as well controlled as it could be. If this happens, take your child to see their GP or asthma nurse as soon as possible so they can review your child’s asthma medicines.
5. Get your child’s inhaler technique checked regularly
Whatever type(s) of inhaler and spacer your child’s using, it’s very important that their inhaler technique is checked regularly – by their GP, asthma nurse or a pharmacist. This is because if your child is using their inhaler(s) and spacer in the right way, they’ll get the maximum benefits from the medicine and will be more likely to stay well with their asthma.
Even if your child has been using an inhaler for ages, it’s easy to slip into bad habits and they might benefit from a tiny tweak. It’s always worth a check. Not sure? Use our inhaler videos to see if they need a face-to-face check.
1. Use and share your child’s written action plan
One of the best ways to look after your child’s asthma and cut their risk of an asthma attack is to make sure they’re using an up-to-date written asthma action plan. Your child’s GP or asthma nurse will fill it in with you so it’s personal to your child. You can then take it to all your child’s asthma appointments so it can be kept up to date with any changes.
Using your child’s asthma action plan helps you, and anyone else looking after your child, feel confident about dealing with asthma symptoms. It tells you:
- What to do every day to help keep your child well
- How to spot the signs that your child’s asthma is getting worse
- What to do if your child’s asthma is getting worse
- What to do if your child has an asthma attack.
- Pin a copy on your family noticeboard or stick a copy on the fridge
- Take a photo of it on your phone and send it to family and friends
- Share copies with the school, after-school club leaders and sports coaches
- Get your child to take a photo of it on their phone or give them a paper copy if they’re old enough.
2. Make spotting symptoms fun
If you have a younger child, you might like to order our My Asthma pack. It comes with a calendar and set of smiley face stickers to encourage your child to keep an eye on their asthma symptoms. Parents have told us they find using the calendar useful because it’s:
- Fun – most young children love stickers, so using the calendar makes spotting symptoms a great activity
- Motivating – your child will see that taking their asthma medicines as prescribed (usually evening morning and evening) and taking care with their asthma triggers means they can have lots of good days
- Confidence-boosting – using a symptom calendar or diary is a good way to get your child involved and teach them about their own asthma – in a survey, 90% of parents said our My Asthma calendar helped their child understand their asthma symptoms better
- Practical – you can take the calendar to show your child’s GP so they can see how your child’s asthma has been.
Older children might like to keep a log of their symptoms on a calendar in their phone, using emojis for good and bad days.
3. See your child’s GP or asthma nurse regularly
Take your child for an asthma review at least once a year, or more often if you need to.
Even if your child is feeling well, take them for a review at least once a year because asthma symptoms can come and go, they can change over time or they can change during the course of the year.
An asthma review is a chance to talk to your GP or asthma nurse about:
- How your child is getting on with their asthma
- If your child needs a different dose of medicine or different medicine (if changes are made your child will need to see their GP again in eight weeks to check how their asthma symptoms are doing)
- How well they’re using their inhaler(s) and spacer.
When to book an asthma review for your child:
- Once a year – the guidelines doctors use recommend that everyone with asthma has a review at least once a year.
- If your child’s having asthma symptoms, book an appointment for them straight away. Your child’s asthma action plan will help you decide when to do this.
- At key times in the year, like the start of a new school term or before you’re going on holiday.
- If there’s ever anything about your child’s asthma that’s worrying you. Trust your instincts and book them in to see their GP or asthma nurse if you’re concerned about anything.
4. Get help to stop smoking
If you smoke, or anyone else in the family smokes, your child’s asthma will be harder to control, and their asthma medicine won’t be able to work as well. Being around tobacco smoke will make your child’s asthma symptoms worse and put them at risk of an asthma attack. Remember that:
- Quitting smoking will help your child stay well. It can be a challenge, but reminding yourself you’re helping your child stay well is an excellent way to stay motivated. Ask your GP or a pharmacist for advice about giving up.
- Asking other people not to smoke around your child will cut their risk of asthma symptoms.
- Talking to your child about their risks from smoking will also help them. They’ll be less likely to experiment with their friends when they’re older if they understand even one puff of a cigarette could trigger asthma symptoms or even a potentially life-threatening asthma attack.
5. Help your child to stay active
Whether they’re running around in a play park, having a kick about with their friends or playing sport for a team (or doing any other activity), asthma doesn’t have to stop your child from exercising. “Exercise is actually good for your child’s asthma, if their asthma is well managed,” says Dr Andy Whittamore, Asthma UK’s in-house GP. “Encourage them to be as active as possible with our top tips for keeping a child with asthma active. It can improve how well their lungs work.”
6. Keep an eye on your child’s weight
If your child is overweight, your GP or asthma nurse can support you to help them to lose weight in a sensible, healthy way. They might even refer you to a dietitian for specialist advice. This is because research shows that heavier children with a higher BMI are more likely to:
- Have asthma in the first place – researchers say between 10 and 29% of asthma cases in children are linked to being overweight
- Get more asthma symptoms
- Have a potentially life-threatening asthma attack
- Need to take more medicine to keep their asthma symptoms under control.
Being heavier can also affect the development of your child’s lungs and how well their lungs work.
Children with asthma may be more likely to become obese, which in turn can make their asthma symptoms worse.
See our helpful tips to help your child stay at a healthy weight, and lose weight if they need to.
7. Spot your child’s asthma triggers
An asthma trigger is anything that can set off your child’s asthma by irritating their sensitive airways. It’s possible for your child to have several triggers. Common asthma triggers include cigarette smoke, colds and viruses, cold weather, and allergies such as food, pollen, house dust mites, mould and pets.
How can you help your child deal with asthma triggers?
Many common triggers aren’t things your child can avoid – pollution, pollen and cold weather, for example. But you can stop your child’s airways being so sensitive and inflamed (and less likely to react to these triggers) by making sure they take their asthma medicines every day exactly as prescribed. Protecting your children’s airways with their medicines means they’re less likely to be bothered by asthma symptoms and can get on with enjoying their favourite activities and playing with friends.
Your child can avoid some asthma triggers more easily. For example, food allergies, pets and cigarette smoke. If you understand which things trigger your child’s asthma you might be able to help them avoid them.
Not sure what your child’s asthma triggers are? You might find it helpful to:
- Keep a symptom and activity diary to help you spot any patterns
- Speak to your GP or asthma nurse who can help you work out likely triggers.
Once you know what your child’s asthma triggers are, making small changes can help them manage their asthma well. Find out more about managing individual triggers here.
“Cold and damp weather is the worst trigger for all of us. In November, both boys tend to get a night-time cough. During a cold spell, we always make sure wear neck ‘tubes’ around our mouths and noses – they’re a bit like scarves, but you can pull them up easier and they don’t unravel. Apparently wearing them warms up the air before we breathe it in and helps to prevent asthma symptoms.” Anna, who has asthma and two sons with asthma – Gabriel, 10, and Beau, 5.
If your child is taking their asthma medicines every day as prescribed but is still having asthma symptoms, speak to their GP or asthma nurse about the best ways to help them.
8. Make sure your child stays safe if they’re trying complementary therapies
Although you can find lots of promising claims about complementary therapies on the internet and on forums, they haven’t been studied as much as conventional medicines. There’s not very much scientific evidence to show they work or that they’re even safe.
It’s very important to check with your GP or asthma nurse before your child tries a new complementary therapy and that you don’t stop giving your child their prescribed medicines (unless your GP or asthma nurse advises you to do so).
Last updated May 2019
Next review due May 2022