How to get the best from your asthma review

Stay on top of your asthma with a regular asthma review

An asthma review is an appointment with your GP or asthma nurse to talk about your asthma. It's a chance to talk about how to manage your symptoms better. 

Guidelines state that everyone with asthma should have an asthma review at least once a year. People with severe asthma should have one more often. And if your child has asthma make sure they go for regular reviews too.

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

But don't wait for an annual asthma review if you're having problems wtih your asthma. 

“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 worth going to your asthma review

In our 2017 annual survey most people (75%) told us they'd had an annual asthma review. 

An asthma review is a great opportunity to make sure you're getting the right treatment for your asthma. It could help you keep free of symptoms.

This is your chance to ask questions about anything that's worrying you. For example, you can ask about any triggers or symptoms you're noticing. And you can check that you're using your inhaler correctly.

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 it could be that you'll be able to cut down your asthma medicines.

At your asthma review you can:

  • review your asthma medicines to make sure they're still working well for you
  • have tests like spirometry and peak flow to see how well your lungs are working 
  • talk through any symptoms bothering you or triggers you've noticed
  • talk to your GP or asthma nurse about cutting down your asthma medicines (if you've had no symptoms and haven't needed your reliever inhaler for three months)
  • check you're taking your inhaler in the right way so the medicine ends up in your lungs where it's needed
  • update your written asthma action plan 
  • ask about other things that might help your asthma such as stop smoking support and starting to exercise.

How to make the best 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?

Keep a note of any symptoms

Every day, 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.  

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. Go 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 want to talk about having a flu jab in the autumn.

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).

Last updated January 2018

Next review due January 2021