Transition from child to adult asthma care

Find out how a good transition plan can give you the confidence to take charge of your own asthma once you move to adult care.

Whether you've been looking after your own asthma for some time already, or you're worried about moving from your familiar paediatric clinic to an adult clinic with new consultants, this page has lots of information to help you know what to expect.

 

What is an asthma care transition plan?

Transition is when your healthcare team supports you in getting ready to move from children’s healthcare to adult healthcare. It usually happens between the ages of 16 and 18.

A good asthma care transition plan gives you plenty of time to prepare before you eventually transfer.

“Chats with your GP or asthma nurse could start at 14,” says Asthma UK asthma specialist nurse Kathy, “but it’s different for each individual and can depend on where you live, too.”

  • If you've only ever needed to see your GP or asthma nurse about your asthma you may notice there’s less focus on your parents or carers now, and more on you taking responsibility for your own asthma. This means understanding your medicines and using your written asthma action plan. You can start seeing your GP or asthma nurse on your own, without your parents or carers, if you want to.
  • If you see a consultant paediatrician in an asthma clinic about your asthma, you may go through a formal transition process. This may include:
    - talking about whether your parent or carer should still be at your appointments with you
    - writing an agreed asthma care transition plan
    - a handover session with both a paediatric and adult asthma specialist nurse 
    - a home visit from an adult asthma specialist nurse
    - support with stopping smoking and/or vaping
    - psychological support.

Who’s involved in your asthma care transition plan?

You, your family or carers, your paediatrician and asthma nurse are all involved in your transition.

You may have a “transition co-ordinator”, “key worker” or “named worker” to make sure your transition goes smoothly. This means you and your family can have a named point of contact.

Together you can plan for your move to an adult asthma clinic, including the timings for it. For example, you can talk about timing the move to fit around exams or holidays.

“All clinics and hospitals do things differently. But a good asthma care transition plan will include information on who to contact if you need support or advice,” says nurse Kathy. 

What about parents/carers?

“Try not to forget your parents or carers!” says nurse Kathy. “They’ve been used to looking after you and your asthma, possibly for quite a few years. It may not be easy for them to let go and trust that you can look after yourself now.

“It may be especially hard for them if your asthma’s affected you a lot and you’ve needed to go into hospital several times during your childhood.”

Try these three things to help make it easier for you all:

  • Talk to them about how you’re managing your asthma so they feel more confident that you’re doing all the right things to stay well.
  • Think about including them in your appointments at first so they have a chance to ask their own questions.
  • Give them an updated copy of your written asthma action plan so they know what – if anything – has changed.

Your checklist − questions you may like to ask your doctor or asthma nurse

  • How old will I be when I move to adult services?
  • What asthma clinic or hospital will I move to?
  • Is there an asthma care transition plan?
  • Will my new team have all my medical records?
  • Will I have a key worker or transition coordinator to support me?
  • Can I 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?

For parents and carers of children with asthma

“Transition can be a worrying time for parents and carers,” says nurse Kathy. “You may be concerned about how your child will manage their asthma, and how they’ll cope with moving to a new asthma clinic.

“You may worry about whether they’ll take in what they’re told during appointments. And you may find it difficult to feel you’re losing control and are no longer in charge of your child’s healthcare.

“This may be especially hard if your child’s asthma has been difficult to manage and they’ve been in hospital during their childhood.

“It’s natural to have these concerns – but worrying too much may make the transition process more stressful for both you and your child.”

Here are some answers to common questions:

How can I help make the move to adult asthma services easier for my child?

You could start by gradually letting your child have some control over their health before they officially move to adult services. Even when your child is quite young there are ways to help them start managing their own asthma well. 

You could try:

  • sitting down together and planning a couple of questions they want to ask the GP or asthma nurse at their next appointment.
  • asking the GP, asthma nurse or consultant to speak directly to your child, rather than to you. This can help your child start to get used to having appointments on their own.

How can I help my child remember to take their inhalers?

One of the best ways to help your child get into a routine is to make it part of something they do already. 

You could encourage your child to: 

  • keep their asthma medicines somewhere easy to find, such as their bedside table
  • use their preventer inhaler at the same times every day, such as after brushing their teeth morning and evening.  
  • check they’ve got their reliever inhaler with them when they go out. Try putting a reminder on the front door for a while to help them get into the habit.

What can I do if my child isn’t taking their asthma medicine as prescribed?

If your child finds it hard to take their inhalers and any other medicine, talk to them about what gets in the way. Are they avoiding taking their inhalers because they don’t want to accept they have asthma? Or maybe they aren’t very organised and simply forget.

You could:

  • talk to them about what stops them and what may help so you can come up with solutions. For example, if taking asthma medicine every day makes them feel different to their friends, remind them that lots of young people have medical conditions they have to deal with. Help them understand that taking their preventer inhaler as prescribed is the best way to stop asthma symptoms, so they can get on with doing all the things they want to do.
  • help them to think of ways to remember to take their asthma medicines - perhaps they could download a reminder app onto their phone.
  • talk to our friendly, expert helpline nurses by calling or messaging them via WhatsApp if you're not sure how to help or need more ideas. Or speak to their GP, asthma nurse or a pharmacist.

How can I stay involved in my child’s asthma care?

Remember your child may like feeling independent. And they may feel more confident about looking after themselves if you can show that you have confidence in them.

Here are some useful ideas to help you get used to the new approach as your child grows up:

  • You could arrange an appointment with your child’s new team during the transition process, so you can meet everyone involved before your child moves to adult services.
  • You can still go to some appointments with your child if they’re happy with that. If they prefer to go on their own, encourage them to make a list of questions they want to ask and go through it with them before the appointment.
  • You could also set aside ten minutes for a debrief so that your child can tell you what happened in the appointment.

How can the whole family be supportive?

Even if your child enjoys their independence and wants to manage their asthma on their own, it can be helpful to them to feel the family is still involved.

You could encourage your child to keep a copy of their written asthma action plan where the whole family can see it – for example, on the fridge door. This means you will all know the signs that suggest your child’s asthma may be getting worse, and you’ll all know their triggers.

Don’t forget, if you’re worried about your child’s asthma you can call our friendly asthma nurse specialists on 0300 222 5800 or message them via WhatsApp on 07378 606 728 (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm). And remember, children over 16 can call the Asthma UK helpline themselves.



Last updated June 2019

Next review due June 2022