How to get the best from your asthma review

Stay on top of your asthma with a regular asthma review

 

When do you go for an asthma review?

Why it's good to go for your asthma review

What happens at your asthma review?

How to get the most out of your asthma review

Seeing your GP or asthma nurse at other times

When do you go for an asthma review? 

Most people go for an asthma review once a year. Asthma guidelines recommend this as an important way to help you stay on top of your asthma symptoms.

Usually your GP surgery will invite you for an annual asthma review. If your surgery hasn't invited you, you can book an appointment yourself.

If you have difficult or severe asthma you need to go for an asthma review more often. 

And if your child has asthma make sure they go for an asthma review too, at least once a year.  

“If you're having asthma symptoms, don't wait for your annual check. Give your surgery a call and get seen sooner,” says Dr Andy Whittamore, Asthma UK’s in-house GP.

Why it's good to go for your asthma review

A regular asthma review could help you keep free of symptoms and cut your risk of an asthma attack.

This is a great opportunity to talk to your GP about:

  • symptoms getting in the way of things you want to do
  • asthma attacks – whether you’ve had one, or you’re scared of having one
  • medicines - how they help, and any side effects
  • stop smoking advice and other ways to help you avoid asthma symptoms

“Even if you're feeling well with your asthma go to your review. It's a chance to make sure your asthma stays well, so you can carry on with doing the things you enjoy, and don’t need time off work or school, ” says Dr Andy.

What happens at your asthma review?

Your asthma review is a check-up to see how well you’re managing your asthma, and to see if there’s anything more you and your GP can do to help you avoid symptoms.

At your asthma review your GP or asthma nurse should do the following:  

  • Ask how your asthma’s been

For example, they might ask:

  1. Are your asthma symptoms getting in the way of sleep?
  2. Are you having asthma symptoms during the day?
  3. Are your asthma symptoms getting in the way of day to day activities?
  4. How often do you use your reliever inhaler?
  5. Is your asthma worse when you're at work?
  • Carry out some tests 

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

  • Check your inhaler technique

Taking your inhaler in the right way can make a big difference to how well your medicines work. So when you  go to your review, don't forget to take along all your inhalers and spacers. 

  • Talk about your risk of an asthma attack

You and your GP can talk about any asthma attacks you’ve had, and whether you’ve needed oral steroids.

They’ll also check how many relievers you’re collecting, and how often you’re using your reliever inhaler to deal with symptoms coming on.

This is a good opportunity to talk through what you can do to lower your risk of an asthma attack, for example using your preventer regularly, or stopping smoking, or losing any excess weight.

And to review the asthma medicines you’re taking to make sure they’re still working for you.

"If you've had no symptoms and haven't needed your reliever inhaler for three months your GP can look at cutting down your asthma medicines," says Dr Andy.

  • Update your written asthma action plan 

Your annual asthma review is a great time to look through your asthma action plan and make any changes.

For example, if the GP changes your medicines they can write it down on your action plan.

Don't worry if you don't have an action plan yet. You can find out more about how action plans help asthma, and download one, from our action plan page. Then just take it along to your appointment. 

How to make the most of your asthma review

Here are some ideas to help you prepare for your appointment so you can get the best out of it.  

Before you go

Write down any questions you want to ask. For example:

  • Am I on the right dose of medicine?
  • Is this the best inhaler for me?
  • How can I cope with triggers?
  • What do I do if symptoms get worse?
  • How can I get into a good routine with my asthma medicines?
  • Can I get stop smoking support?
  • Are my asthma medicines safe to take with other medicines?

Keep a note of any symptoms

Every day, try to make a note of how you feel, and whether you've noticed any triggers. Write down whether or not you've taken your medicines as prescribed.

You can take this record along to your appointment. It will help your GP or asthma nurse get a clearer idea of how your asthma's been. 

Write down anything you think might be a symptom, even if you're not sure. You'll be able to talk about whether it's anything to do with your asthma or not, and what you can do about it. 

Try recording symptoms on your phone

When you have symptoms, take a video of yourself on your phone. Or you could ask someone else to film you.

If you don't have symptoms on the day of your appointment, having a video can help.

Showing your GP or nurse a video tells them what your symptoms have been like straight away. It means you don't have to try describing them.

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

Take along all your inhalers and spacers

Your GP or asthma nurse can check your inhaler technique. Even a small tweak to the way you take your inhalers can make a big difference to how much asthma medicine is getting to your lungs. 

Take along your asthma action plan

Your annual asthma review is a great time to look through your asthma action plan and make any changes.

For example, if the GP changes your medicines they can write it down on your action plan.

Don't worry if you don't have an action plan yet. You can find out more about how action plans help asthma, and download one, from our action plan page. Then just take it along to your appointment. 

At your appointment

Be open about anything that could be making your asthma worse

For example, if you keep forgetting to take your inhaler, or don't take it because you're worried about side effects, talk about it to your GP or asthma nurse. They can find ways to support you. 

It helps your GP to know if you smoke, so be honest. Smoking can make your asthma worse, and stop your asthma medicines working so well. 

Ask your GP or asthma nurse how you can make some changes to help your health. They can help you with quitting smoking. They can also give you advice about weight loss

It's also good to be open about any complementary therapies you've tried. Sometimes complementary medicines can interfere with your asthma treatment, so it's really useful for your GP or asthma nurse to know about it.

Ask questions

This is your chance to get information about your asthma and the best way to look after it, so ask as many questions as you need to.

Don't be afraid to ask your GP or asthma nurse to repeat anything you don't understand.

You could say something like: "I'm not quite sure I heard what you said about X. Would you mind going over it again?"

Don’t leave your asthma review without

  • an updated written asthma action plan
  • answers to your questions and concerns
  • knowing what medicines to take and why
  • feeling confident you're using your inhaler(s) and spacer in the right way
  • booking your next review
  • asking if there's a text or email reminder service for your next appointment.

Seeing your GP or asthma nurse at other times

You don't need to wait for your annual review to see your GP or asthma nurse about your asthma. If you're worried about anything you can make an appointment at any time.

Use a written asthma action plan so you're clear when you need to see your GP or asthma nurse.

Make sure you see your GP or asthma nurse about your asthma

  • within 24 hours if asthma symptoms have been getting worse, you need to use your reliever inhaler three or more times a week, or you've had an asthma attack
  • within two working days if you've had to go to hospital with an asthma attack
  • within four to eight weeks if your prescription has changed
  • after 12 weeks if you've had no symptoms. You should be on the lowest dose of medicine needed to keep you free of symptoms. Depending on your triggers and the pattern of your symptoms, you and your GP or asthma nurse can talk about keeping you on the same dose of medicines or reducing your dose
  • if you have seasonal triggers like hay fever. Try going the month before your hay fever usually starts. Managing hay fever symptoms is an important way of managing your asthma. Your GP or asthma nurse may also increase your asthma treatment beforehand to provide extra protection

If you're still in doubt, or you don’t feel satisfied with your review, call our Helpline and talk to our experienced asthma nurse specialists: 0300 222 5800 (9am-5pm; Mon-Fri). Or you can WhatsApp them on 07378 606 728.

Last updated October 2019

Next review due October 2022