Asthma Management Handbook
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Table. Findings that increase or decrease the probability of asthma in children

Asthma more likely

Asthma less likely

More than one of:

  • wheeze
  • difficulty breathing
  • feeling of tightness in the chest
  • cough

Any of:

  • symptoms only occur when child has a cold, but not between colds
  • isolated cough in the absence of wheeze or difficulty breathing
  • history of moist cough
  • dizziness, light-headedness or peripheral tingling
  • repeatedly normal physical examination of chest when symptomatic
  • normal spirometry when symptomatic (children old enough to perform spirometry)
  • no response to a trial of asthma treatment
  • clinical features that suggest an alternative diagnosis


Any of:

  • symptoms recur frequently
  • symptoms worse at night and in the early morning
  • symptoms triggered by exercise, exposure to pets, cold air, damp air, emotions, laughing
  • symptoms occur when child doesn’t have a cold
  • history of allergies (e.g. allergic rhinitis, atopic dermatitis)
  • family history of allergies
  • family history of asthma
  • widespread wheeze heard on auscultation
  • symptoms respond to treatment trial of reliever, with or without a preventer
  • lung function measured by spirometry increases in response to rapid-acting bronchodilator
  • lung function measured by spirometry increases in response to a treatment trial with inhaled corticosteroid (where indicated)


British Thoracic Society (BTS), Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN). British Guideline on the management of Asthma. A national clinical guideline. BTS/SIGN, Edinburgh, 2012. Available from:

Respiratory Expert Group, Therapeutic Guidelines Limited. Therapeutic Guidelines: Respiratory, Version 4. Therapeutic Guidelines Limited, Melbourne, 2009.

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