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The main symptoms of asthma are:

  • Wheezing (a whistling sound when breathing)
  • Breathlessness
  • Tight chest – a feeling like a band is tightening around it 
  • Coughing

Your GP will be able to diagnose asthma by asking about symptoms and carrying out some simple breathing tests. 

Most treatments are taken using an inhaler:

  • Reliever inhalers – inhalers that deliver a spray or powder medicine to the breathing tubes on the inward breath, used to quickly relieve asthma symptoms for a short time
  • Preventer inhalers – inhalers used regularly every day to reduce inflammation in the breathing tubes and prevent asthma symptoms occurring

Asthma can normally be kept under control using medication, however, it is a serious condition that can cause complications.

Symptoms can sometimes get temporarily worse, known as an asthma attack. You mustn’t ignore these if they’re getting worse.

Signs that a young person is having an asthma attack are:

  • Their symptoms are getting worse (cough, breathlessness, wheezing, tight chest) and their reliever inhaler (usually blue) isn't helping
  • They’re too breathless to speak, eat or sleep
  • Their breathing is getting faster and they can't catch their breath
  • Their peak flow score is lower than normal
  • They complain of a stomach ache

If a young person is having an asthma attack

  1. Sit them down and encourage them to take slow, steady breaths. Try to remain calm yourself so you’re best able to help
  2. Make sure they take one puff of their reliever inhaler (usually blue) every 30-60 seconds, up to a maximum of 10 puffs. If they have a spacer, it’s best that they use it, especially during an asthma attack
  3. Call 999 for an ambulance if they don't have their inhaler, if they feels worse despite using their inhaler, if they don't feel better after taking 10 puffs or if you’re worried at any point
  4. If the ambulance hasn't arrived within 15 minutes, repeat step 2
  5. If your child is taken to hospital, please bring details of their medicines with you

If their symptoms improve and you don't need to call 999,  make an appointment for your child to be reviewed by their GP or asthma nurse within 24 hours.

You can help your child by identifying and avoiding asthma triggers, if possible, and making sure they take their medication as prescribed. They should have an annual asthma review with their GP or Practice Nurse.

You must inform their school that they have asthma, and make sure they have their medication with them in school.

For young people attending state maintained schools, free schools or academies, our school nursing service is here to support you. You’re welcome to contact us for one-to-one advice and support. Once our service has been informed, either by you or the school, we’ll ask you to complete an asthma action plan. Alternatively, the school might ask you to do this directly. The plan details your child’s symptoms, the medication they’re taking and what to do in an emergency. Please make sure their asthma is reviewed annually and their action plan is updated as needed.

Some schools will allow pupils to carry their inhalers with them; some schools prefer to keep them in a central place. It’s important for you and your child to be aware of their school’s policy as this will vary and might also depend on the age of the child. You should ensure your child has their inhalers with them if they’re going on a school trip. Generally, by the time they go to secondary school, children should carry their inhalers with them.

The school nursing service delivers asthma updates to school staff. This supports schools to ensure they have the most up to date knowledge of asthma and that they know how to support your child if they’re unwell in school.

If your child attends an Independent school, make their school aware they have asthma. The school will then be able to inform you of their provision for children with asthma.

As your child grows up, help them understand their asthma and encourage them to recognise their symptoms and be increasingly independent in managing their inhalers.

If your child attends a state maintained school, free school or academy in Berkshire, your school nursing service is available to offer support and advice. We offer asthma updates to school staff to support them to help your child remain healthy in school.

We run a full service Monday to Friday term time and a reduced service throughout the school holidays.

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