SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- Doctors do not use one specific test to diagnose asthma.
- To help diagnose asthma, your doctor will take your medical history, do a physical examination, listen to your lungs and order some lung function tests.
- A lung function test measures airflow in and out of the lungs, and will help your doctor to diagnose asthma.
- You should take your child to the doctor if you are concerned about any breathing problems they may have.
- A lung function test is not usually possible in children younger than 5 years.
- Diagnosing asthma in very young children can be difficult.
- difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
These symptoms can become severe and lead to a life-threatening .
Asthma symptoms are caused by the muscles tightening around the airways, and swelling and mucus production inside the airways. People with asthma have airways that are sensitive to some things that may not bother people without asthma. Things that set off or start symptoms are called triggers.
Doctors do not use one specific test to diagnose asthma.
Your doctor first needs to understand your symptoms and medical history. Your doctor will ask questions such as whether there is any family history of asthma, or . They will also try to understand if there are any other reasons for your symptoms before making a clinical diagnosis of asthma.
In people older than 5 years, a lung function test that measures airflow in and out of the lungs will help your doctor to diagnose asthma.
Asthma is more likely to be diagnosed if your symptoms:
- keep coming back, or happen at the same time each year
- are worse at night or in the early morning
- are clearly triggered by exercise, allergies or infections, or have a seasonal pattern
- improve quickly with .
Diagnosis of asthma in children
Your doctor will assess your child’s symptoms and your explanation of their symptoms, and may give your child asthma medicine to measure its effect – this is called a ‘treatment trial’. Your doctor will monitor the effect this medicine has on your child and will use the results as part of their diagnostic process.
Keep a record of asthma symptoms
If you or a family member have breathing difficulties, keep a diary of symptoms to discuss with your doctor. You could also make a video or audio recording of the wheezing, using your mobile phone.
The diary may include:
- when the symptoms occur – such as during the day or worse at night
- how bad the symptoms are and how often they happen
- how long the symptoms remain and whether they change with time
- whether the symptoms are worse after exercise, playing, laughing or after an infection (colds or flu)
- whether the symptoms are worse after exposure to animals, pollens or .
Lung function test
A lung function test () can help to diagnose asthma in adults and children 5 years and older. Spirometry measures air flowing in and out of the lungs to give a measure of how well your lungs work. Other conditions, such as having a cold, can also affect lung function.
To do the test, you will blow into a tube as hard as you can for a few seconds. The spirometer measures the amount of air pushed through the tube, as well as other lung measurements. Most adults and children older than 5 years are able to do this test.
Where to get help
- In an emergency, always call triple zero (000)
- Emergency department of your nearest hospital
- Tel. – for expert health information and advice (24 hours, 7 days)
- – for after-hours home doctor visits (bulk billed) Tel. 13 SICK ()
- Tel. 1800 ASTHMA ()
- – videos to help you better understand and manage your child's asthma