North London Partners in health and care

It's good to be talking about asthma this week

Dr Oliver Anglin
Camden GP, clinical lead on the Children and Young People’s workstream for north central London, also the clinical lead for children & young people’s asthma across London

It’s the commonest long-term medical problem in children and young people. By that we mean a medical problem that can last for years, that requires regular medicines and check-ups. It’s so common in fact that around 3 children in every classroom will have it.

The good news is we know a lot about it and we know how to treat it. With the right medicines, taken in the right way, children and young people with asthma can live and enjoy life the same as their friends who don’t have asthma.

The bad news is that despite this, many children still suffer with the symptoms of asthma, missing days off school, ending up in the emergency department or admitted to hospital and sadly even dying. Obviously this doesn’t make sense and shouldn’t happen so we all need to pay attention, and make sure we are doing the right thing. Common reasons for a child or young person having an asthma attack are that they haven’t been taking their medicine correctly or haven’t arranged to speak to a doctor when their symptoms seem to be getting a bit worse

As a GP I have 3 questions for you if you or your child has asthma.

  • Have you had a recent asthma review?
  • Do you have a written asthma action plan?
  • Has someone recently checked your inhaler technique to make sure you are using it correctly?

If the answer to any of these is no then please call your GP surgery and arrange to have an asthma review.

It’s also important that you come and see us if you are worried that you or child might have asthma.

Things to look out for are feelings of breathlessness or some wheeze or tightness in your chest, or a cough for no reason that’s not going away. Perhaps this happens after running around, or during hayfever season, or around cats or dogs, or strong chemical smells. Maybe it’s something that is worse in the evenings or at night. Maybe it’s more obvious with a cold. Certain conditions tend to occur together – asthma, eczema, hayfever and food allergies. If a child or young person has any of these, or they run in the family – maybe parents or wider family - then this increases the possibility that that coughing or breathing problem which seems to be hanging around might be asthma. If this sounds familiar, make an appointment with your GP. We will ask you some questions, do an examination and maybe arrange some breathing tests to help us work out what’s going on.

Remember, its not ‘just’ asthma – it can be managed and kept under control and should never be ignored.