How to get the best from your asthma review

Your review is a good chance to help you manage your asthma better.

An asthma review is an appointment with your GP or asthma nurse to talk about your asthma and any ways you can manage your symptoms better. It will help you to make sure you're on the right asthma plan for you. 

Regular asthma reviews are an important part of asthma management, and may help prevent asthma attacks in the future. In our 2016 asthma survey most people (78 per cent) told us they attend an annual asthma review. Going for your reviews can also help keep you as free as possible from symptoms. Your review is a chance for you and your GP or asthma nurse to find out how well managed your asthma really is – and make some improvements, if necessary, so you don’t need to put up with coughing and wheezing getting in the way of life. 

Guidelines state that everyone with asthma should have an asthma review at least once a year, while those with severe asthma should have one more often. And you should go even if you feel well - it's your chance to make sure your asthma stays well managed so you can get on with doing the things you enjoy. Children should have their asthma reviewed every six months - for more information, have a look at our page on reviews for children.

On this page:

Why you should go

  • You can get your medicine adjusted to suit your needs.
  • You can have tests to find out how well you really are, even if you don’t think you have symptoms.
  • You’ll kick yourself if you don’t go and then end up struggling with symptoms or even having an asthma attack.

What to expect from a good asthma review

Your GP or asthma nurse should:

1. Ask you about your asthma symptoms. For example, they may ask:

  • whether symptoms are disturbing your sleep
  • whether symptoms affect you during the day
  • how often you need to use your reliever inhaler
  • if symptoms ever stop you from doing normal daily activities.

2. Check inhalers and that you’re on the right treatment and dose. They may even reduce the amount of medicine you take.

3. Check your peak flow. The peak expiratory flow test or PEF is a lung function test to measure how fast you can blow out. It can show how much your lungs are affected by asthma.

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

5. Update your written asthma action plan, based on your peak flow and/or your symptoms. An action plan is a personalised plan containing the information you need to look after your asthma well. Evidence shows you’re four times less likely to end up in hospital if you follow a written asthma action plan. Download an asthma action plan and take it with you to your next asthma review. 

6. Answer any questions you have.

Your first review

You’ll normally have your first review one year after being diagnosed – and then at least once a year after that.  You may still be getting used to managing your asthma, so your first review is your chance to ask questions about anything that’s worrying you - whether you’re using your inhaler correctly, for example, or any symptoms you’re still noticing.

Follow the steps below to prepare for your appointment. If you’re feeling a bit anxious or you’re concerned you might not take everything in, think about taking a friend or family member with you.

When should I have a review?

Most adults should have an asthma review at least once a year. People with severe asthma may need to have a review more often. But there are other times you should book a review. Make an appointment…

Within 24 hours if:

  • you’re using your reliever inhaler more than three times a week
  • your symptoms are getting worse
  • you’re off work or school because of your asthma
  • you have an asthma attack but don’t need to go to hospital.

Within two working days if:

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

Within four to eight weeks if:

  • you’ve started a new medicine – your doctor or asthma nurse will check it’s working well for you
  • your medicine’s been changed or adjusted – a review will check you’re on the right dose to manage your symptoms.

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, so your GP or asthma nurse may decide to reduce your dose. This is called ‘stepping down’.

According to seasonal triggers if:

  • you get hay fever - go the month before it usually starts. Or keep an eye on the Met Office’s pollen forecast and book earlier if necessary. Managing hay fever symptoms is an important way of managing your asthma. Your GP or asthma nurse may also step up your asthma treatment beforehand to provide extra protection.
  • you want to talk about having a flu jab in the autumn.

At any time if:

  • you have any worries about your asthma.

When you make your review appointment…

  • Tell the GP receptionist that you’re booking an asthma review. You should see either a GP or a specialist asthma nurse, if your GP practice has one.
  • Check how long the appointment will be. On average, an asthma review should be 20 minutes. If the receptionist offers you a standard appointment of eight to 10 minutes, ask if you can book a double appointment so there’s time to go through everything.

Before you go to your asthma review:

Get prepared

Note down any questions on paper or a sticky note, such as:

  • 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?

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, showing your GP or nurse a video quickly gives them a clear idea of what your symptoms are like so you don’t have to try to describe it, and can make more of your time.

Keep a symptom diary for a month

It makes it easier to remember and give your GP or nurse an accurate picture. Every day, note how you feel, whether you’ve taken your medicines as prescribed, and whether you’ve noticed any triggers. Write down anything you think might be a symptom, even if you’re not sure – you’ll be able to discuss whether it’s connected to your asthma and what you can do about it

Remember to take your inhaler(s) and spacer to the appointment, plus...

  • Your written asthma action plan. Don't have one yet? Find out more about why these plans can help you stay well and download one here
  • Any questions you’ve prepared
  • A friend to take notes if that’s helpful
  • Anything requested by your GP or nurse in your appointment letter.      

At your review

Discuss any concerns you have about your symptoms or your medicine. 

Be honest!

If you keep forgetting to take your inhaler, or don’t take it because you’re worried about side effects, for example, be honest. Your GP or asthma nurse will want to find ways to support you. 

Check you understand.

Ask questions to be sure you are clear.

Talk about your lifestyle

Lifestyle factors - such as being overweight or smoking - can make your asthma worse. Ask your GP or asthma nurse how you can make some changes to help your health. They can help you with weight loss and quitting smoking.

Discuss alternatives

Be open about any complementary therapies you've been using, from herbs to acupuncture. Don't worry about discussing this with your GP or asthma nurse. Sometimes complementary medicines can interfere with your treatment, so it's vital your GP or asthma nurse knows if you've been taking anything else.

Don’t leave your 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. Ask if there’s a text or email reminder service.

Remember:

Don't wait for your next review if you're worried about anything. You can make an appointment to see your GP or asthma nurse at any time.

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?" 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 December 2016

Next review due December 2019