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4 Things To Ask Your Child’s Doctor About Asthma

Updated on January 09, 2023
Medically reviewed by
Deborah Pedersen, M.D.
Article written by
Kristopher Bunting, M.D.

Poorly controlled asthma in children can significantly interfere with their quality of life. Asthma can limit their day-to-day activities and potentially lead to missed school days, emergency room visits, and hospitalization. Parents and caregivers can make sure they understand their child’s asthma treatment plans by asking the right questions and getting information from their child’s doctor.

Treatment of asthma typically consists of maintenance or controller medications (such as an inhaled corticosteroid) taken every day to control symptoms, as well as quick-relief or rescue medications (such as albuterol) to treat periodic asthma attacks.

Take the poll: What’s the Most Frustrating Lifestyle Change Your Child Experiences Due to Asthma?

Asking your doctor the right questions can help you manage your child’s asthma and make sure they’re getting the best care. Here are four important topics to discuss at your next appointment.

1. Ask About Your Child’s Treatment Plan

When talking to your child’s doctor about asthma treatment, discuss the goals for treatment, including how to know whether medications are working. As a caregiver, you need to know when treatments aren’t working well enough and when to contact the doctor about making changes to the treatment plan. Make sure to tell the doctor how your child is responding to their current treatment, especially how frequently they need to use quick-relief medicines, such as rescue inhalers.

Always be honest with your doctor about missing doses or not following medical guidance. It can be embarrassing to admit, but your doctor needs to know if your child is not following the treatment plan.

Additionally, make sure to report any problems with taking asthma medicines. For example, if your child is having trouble using an inhaler, they may not be getting an effective dose of medication, which can lead to more symptoms. In this case, they may not need a change to their treatment plan, but simply more training.

2. Ask What Medications Your Child Will Need

Parents and caregivers need to understand their child’s asthma medications. Children must also recognize and understand how to use their own medications. This is especially true for older children who carry their own inhalers.

You may be surprised at how quickly a child can learn about and understand their treatment, even at a very young age. Include your child in the discussion with their doctor about their medications.

When talking with your child’s doctor, make sure you know the names of any prescribed asthma medicines — including both the brand name and the drug name — and what they look like. You should also understand how each medicine is taken. This can include pills, inhalers, or nebulizer treatments. Bring your child’s medications with you to every doctor visit.

Ask the doctor about the dosage (how much to give your child), such as the number of puffs of an inhaler or how much medicine to put into a nebulizer. You should also understand when and how often treatments should be given, including any additional treatments before exercise or physical activity.

Learn about treatments for moderate to severe childhood asthma.

3. Ask Your Child’s Doctor How To Give Medications

Sit down with your child’s doctor or a nurse and discuss each medication one by one. Some inhalers may look similar but have different uses. For example, powder inhalers have special instructions.

You and your child should know how to operate each inhaler. This includes when and how to prime a new inhaler before use and how to properly use the spacer that attaches to some inhalers. You may also need to know how to operate a nebulizer machine, as well as how to properly attach tubing and use a mask. Ask how and when to clean inhalers, spacers, and nebulizers.

Don’t forget to discuss when and how to use a peak flow meter, including how to clean it. A peak flow meter can tell you if your child is having a bad asthma day or an asthma episode. Just as checking blood sugar levels is important for people with diabetes, using a peak flow meter is important for children with asthma (who are old enough).

Work with your doctor to determine your child’s “personal best” flow meter reading. This number will tell you how to interpret daily readings. Discuss how to use the peak flow meter as part of your child’s asthma action plan.

4. Ask About Creating an Asthma Action Plan

An asthma action plan is more than a detailed treatment plan. It includes information about what medications to take and when to take them, as well as how to identify and treat acute asthma flare-ups and asthma emergencies. An asthma action plan is not just for you and your child — it’s also for all caregivers, including school staff.

Learn more about preparing your child to return to school after an asthma attack.

When talking to your child’s doctor, make a detailed, written asthma action plan that can be shared with your child’s school or child care center and anyone else caring for your child, such as a babysitter.

Everyone involved in your child’s care must be able to:

  • Identify potential asthma triggers
  • Recognize asthma symptoms
  • Know how to administer quick-relief medicines
  • Understand when to seek emergency medical care

Asthma action plans are typically broken down into zones:

  • Green — The child is doing well.
  • Yellow — The child is having symptoms of an asthma episode.
  • Red — The child is having an asthma emergency.

Zones are determined by peak flow readings and a child’s asthma symptoms. The zone a child is in helps clarify what activities they can do and what type of medical care they need.

Elements of an Asthma Action Plan

An asthma action plan includes several pieces of key information:

  • Parent or caregiver’s contact information
  • Doctor’s name and contact information
  • Instructions for using a peak flow meter
  • Peak flow readings for green, yellow, and red zones
  • A symptom guide for green, yellow, and red zones
  • Daily medications, including the dosage and schedule
  • Quick-relief medications, including dosage and frequency
  • Instructions for using quick-relief medications
  • Notes on when to contact a doctor or seek emergency care

Additional information can include a list of a child’s asthma triggers and allergies, as well as tips for avoiding allergen exposure.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers a sample asthma action plan form.

Getting a Second Opinion

If you are not satisfied with your child’s doctor, don’t hesitate to get a second opinion. Doing so can give you peace of mind that your child is getting the best possible care. There are many reasons to seek a second opinion, including being unsure that asthma is the correct diagnosis, feeling the treatment plan is not working, or not having a good working relationship with your child’s doctor.


When it comes to caring for your child, there are no stupid questions. Make sure to discuss any concerns about your child’s asthma treatment with your health care team.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyAsthmaTeam is the social network for people with asthma and their loved ones. On MyAsthmaTeam, more than 10,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with asthma.

Are you a parent or caregiver of a child with asthma? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

References
  1. Childhood Asthma — Mayo Clinic
  2. Asthma — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  3. What Is Asthma? — National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
  4. Bronchodilator — Cleveland Clinic
  5. What’s the Difference Between a Nebulizer and an Inhaler? — KidsHealth
  6. Age-Specific Incidence of Allergic and Non-Allergic Asthma — BMC Pulmonary Medicine
  7. Asthma Treatment — Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
  8. Tips on How To Use Your Inhaler To Get More Medicine Into Your Lungs for Better Asthma Control — Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
  9. Asthma Medications: Know Your Options — Mayo Clinic
  10. Asthma Inhalers: Which One’s Right for You? — Mayo Clinic
  11. How To Prime an Asthma Inhaler — Denver Health
  12. Spacer Use and Care — National Asthma Council Australia
  13. How To Use a Nebulizer Machine — Allergy & Asthma Network
  14. Peak Flow Meter — Cleveland Clinic
  15. Asthma Action Plan — Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
  16. Asthma Triggers — Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
  17. Asthma Symptoms — Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
  18. Asthma Action Plan — National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
  19. Providing Next-Level Care for Severe Asthma —Temple Health
  20. Confounders of Severe Asthma: Diagnoses To Consider When Asthma Symptoms Persist Despite Optimal Therapy — The World Allergy Organization Journal
  21. Over- and Under-Diagnosis in Asthma — Breathe
  22. Overtreatment With Inhaled Corticosteroids and Diagnostic Problems in Primary Care Patients, an Exploratory Study — Family Practice

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Deborah Pedersen, M.D. has specialized in allergy and asthma care as well as pediatrics for over 16 years. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about her here.
Kristopher Bunting, M.D. studied chemistry and life sciences at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, and received his doctor of medicine degree from Tulane University. Learn more about him here.

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