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Asthma: screening and after diagnosis

Asthma: screening and after diagnosis

The causes of asthma can vary from person to person and diagnosis involves asking a wide range of questions

Posted: 10 May 2016

If you’ve missed yesterday’s episode of this week’s feature on asthma, click here.

Writer: Saša Jankovic

Genetic screening for asthma could help prevent attacks, but we are not quite there yet.

Screening now

So how and where can parents and carers of children with asthma access screening? At the moment “there isn’t a screening process for asthma”, according to Asthma UK, and instead, children are “usually trialed with an inhaler” if they are suspected to have asthma.

Because the causes of asthma vary from person to person, diagnosis involves asking about symptoms and when they're worse; if anyone else in the family has asthma or allergies; and if the child was born early or had breathing problems as a baby. The GP or asthma nurse may also listen to the child’s chest for any wheezy sounds, or test their lungs with a peak flow meter if they are old enough.

As asthma symptoms can come and go, they will also ask if the child has been wheezing; coughing, especially at night, or in the morning; has difficulty breathing; or a tight, sore feeling in their chest.

A diagnosis of asthma is likely if the child has symptoms a lot and they keep coming back, even when they don't have a cold or virus, or come in between colds; if symptoms are more obvious at night, in the early morning or after exercise; if they develop when the child is around pets, cold or damp air, or other asthma triggers; and if their symptoms get better after a ‘trial of treatment’ – where they are given one or more asthma medicines to see if they help.

If the child responds to the trial of treatment, Asthma UK says it’s a very good indication that they have asthma and the treatment is likely to be continued at the lowest dose possible to manage their symptoms. If severe asthma is suspected, the child will be referred to a specialist doctor who will be able to explain more about their diagnosis and treatment, and how to manage their asthma. If a diagnosis is unclear or they don’t respond to the trial of treatment then further tests may be carried out.

After diagnosis

According to Asthma UK, there are a few things that can be done to cut a child’s risk of having an asthma attack. Clinicians, parents and carers should make sure the child has an up-to-date written asthma action plan that lists the medicines they need to take every day to stay well, as well as what to do if their asthma gets worse, and what to do in an asthma attack. The child should also attend an asthma review at least every six months, and take their asthma medicines regularly as prescribed.

Join us tomorrow for the third episode of this week’s feature on asthma as we’ll be discussing who should be screened

To keep up to date with the latest developments and to receive updates on how Asthma UK is working with healthcare professionals to improve asthma care visit: www.asthma.org.uk/professionals/sign-up or call Asthma UK's Helpline on 0300 222 5800 to speak to the charity's expert asthma nurses who are here to support healthcare professionals.