Asthma and young people

We have loads of expert advice that’s especially helpful for you in your teens and early twenties.

Once you reach the age of 12, you can start to use a written asthma action plan for adults. And as you move through your teens towards adulthood, you can start to take more responsibility for managing your asthma, just like you’re starting to take more responsibility for all the other areas of your life. 

Whatever your age, and regardless of how long you've had asthma, there are three important things you can do to help prevent symptoms and reduce your risk of a potentially life-threatening asthma attack:

Managing your asthma

Did you know that you’re four times less likely to have to go to hospital with an asthma attack if you use a written asthma action plan? Anyone who’s 12 or older should be using our written asthma action plan for adults. If you haven’t got one, download one now and make an appointment with your GP or asthma nurse so you can fill it in together. It will help you to know what medicines to take and when to take them, how to recognise when your asthma symptoms change, and what to do if they do.

We’ve got lots of helpful information about staying well with your asthma when you're over 12. And we have loads of expert advice that’s especially helpful for all the new, exciting and challenging things you might do in your teens and early twenties. You can find out about managing your asthma when you're leaving home, going travelling or taking exams. There’s advice about getting help with the cost of medicines when you're at university and about what happens when your healthcare moves from children’s services to adult services – this is known as 'transition'.

Managing your asthma well is the key to staying symptom-free so you can enjoy your life – and have the time of your life!


What is transition?

Transition is the word used when your asthma care is moved from the children’s (paediatric) asthma clinic to the adult asthma clinic, or from a children’s hospital to an adult’s hospital.

A good transition care plan will include information to help you learn more about your asthma and what you can do to stay well. It will also include advice about lifestyle risks and your individual triggers.

The idea behind transition is to put plenty of support in place for you so you can feel confident and ready to take charge of your own asthma by the time you move to an adult clinic.

Who goes through transition?

If you see a consultant paediatrician in an asthma clinic in a hospital about your asthma, then you will probably go through the formal process known as transition.

If you see a GP or an asthma nurse at your GP surgery about your asthma, you won’t go through transition as you would in a hospital setting. But you’ll start seeing your GP or asthma nurse on your own at some point, without your parents or carers. So you might still find the information here useful.

When is transition?

Ideally, your paediatric team will start to talk to you about transition when you’re about 14, although this age isn’t set in stone because the exact timing varies from person to person. The conversations you have at this point are a chance for you to find out more about transition and what you can do to get ready for it. Transition is a gradual process and you can take it at your own pace - it’s good to have some time to learn more about looking after your asthma, and to find out more about the services you’ll be moving to before you transfer. Most people move into adult services between the ages of 16 and 18.

Who’s involved in transition?

You, your family or carers, and your paediatrician or asthma nurse are all involved in your transition. Together you can plan the timings of your transfer to an adult asthma clinic, taking into account other things that might be going on for you, such as exams or holidays. You might be given a "key worker" or "transition co-ordinator" to oversee your transition so you and your family have one point of contact, but all individual clinics and hospitals do things differently.

What’s the difference between children’s services and adult services?

Adult care settings are different to children’s, and you’ll notice that there’s less focus on family involvement and more on you as an individual looking after your own asthma.

Your new team will have a better understanding of your needs now you’re a young adult. As experts in adult asthma they’ll know all about the issues you’ll come across.

How can I start to take responsibility for my own asthma?

You might have been looking after your own asthma for some time, as a child and young teenager, and be wondering what all the fuss is about. Or you might feel like this time of transition is really scary and have lots of fears and concerns about moving your care.

However you’re feeling about becoming a young adult and moving your care, it’s a good idea to check in with how you’re managing your asthma. You can make sure you know what it feels like when your asthma’s not so good, what puts you more at risk of an asthma attack, and what you can do to stay well.

With everything that goes on at this time of your life - physical, hormonal and emotional changes, new schools, exams – it’s easy to forget to look after your asthma properly. Your asthma might feel like just one more thing to cope with or to have to think about. But if you stay on top of your asthma, everything else in your life will run more smoothly.

Also, this is a stage in your life when you might be doing lots of new things that mean you’re out of your usual routine, such as travelling abroad with your friends, starting a new job, college or university or leaving home. This is a brilliant time to develop some good habits to help prevent symptoms and reduce your risk of a life-threatening asthma attack - always remembering to take your inhalers without your parents having to remind you, for example! If you do tend to forget, you can try linking it to something you do every day to get you into the habit. So, if you need to take your preventer inhaler twice a day, you can keep it next to your toothbrush and take it when you clean your teeth in the morning and before bed. You might also find it helpful to set a reminder in your phone or make a note in your diary or on your calendar.

What about my parents/carers?

Try not to forget your parents! They’ve been used to looking after you and your asthma (for many years in some cases) and it might not be easy for them to let go of that control. It might be especially hard for them if your asthma’s been difficult and you’ve needed to go into hospital several times during your childhood.

At first, you may want to include them in your appointments so they have a chance to ask their own questions. Talk to them about what you’re doing and let them see that you’re managing your asthma well so they know they can trust you to do all the things you need to do to stay as well as possible.

What can I do to start looking after my own asthma?

Before you transfer to adult services, or start seeing your asthma nurse or GP on your own, there’s a lot you can do to get a head start:

Learn all you can

  • Look around our website to find out more about what asthma is and how to manage it.
  • Make sure you can talk about your asthma – to friends, family, teachers, employers, or to your doctor or asthma nurse.
  • Make sure you know how your asthma feels when it's getting worse and what you need to do to keep it under control.

Know the risks

  • Do you understand the risks of smoking and being around friends who smoke?
  • Do you know what your triggers are, and do you try to avoid them if possible? Some of the things that trigger your asthma might make you rethink subject choices at college or university as you might want to avoid a career that can trigger occupational or work-related asthma.
  • Do you know what to do if you have an asthma attack and do your friends and family know what to do to help you?
  • Have you checked your risk by filling out our asthma attack risk checker?

Questions you might like to ask your paediatrician:

  • At what age will I move to adult services?
  • What asthma clinic or hospital will I move to?
  • Is there a transition care package in place?
  • Will my new team have all my medical records?
  • Will I have a key worker or transition co-ordinator to oversee my transition?
  • Is it possible to arrange a visit to the adult asthma clinic to meet the team and find out where appointments are held before I move my care there?
  • Can we run through all my asthma medicines to check I’m taking them correctly?
  • Can you explain to me why I need to take each of my medicines, how much and how often?
  • Can you check my inhaler technique?
  • Is there a way I can remember to take all my medicines every day?
  • What can I do to make sure I keep track of all my appointments?

Last updated July 2016

Next review due July 2019