Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Asthma symptoms include a cough, wheezing, chest tightness and breathlessness.

Asthma symptoms include a cough, wheezing, chest tightness and breathlessness.
beginning of content

Asthma diagnosis

2-minute read

There is no single test for asthma. Your doctor will decide if you have asthma based on talking to you, examining you and performing some breathing tests.

They will evaluate:

  • what your symptoms are, how frequently these occur, and whether you notice any improvement with medicine (if you are using anti-asthma treatment)
  • your medical history
  • your family history
  • whether you have allergies
  • what things or situations cause you to have symptoms (your triggers)
  • your lung function (possibly using breathing tests like spirometry or peak flow monitoring)

To assess how well your lungs work, a breathing test called 'spirometry' is carried out. You will be asked to breathe into a machine called a 'spirometer', which measures the amount of air you can breathe out as well as your lung capacity and other measurements.

A small hand-held device known as a 'peak flow meter' can be used to measure how fast you can blow air out of your lungs in one breath. This is your peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR), and the test is usually called a 'peak flow test'. Due to a large variation in what is a ‘normal’ peak flow, monitoring is not done to identify asthma, but it may be used to monitor whether the airways are changing in some individuals with asthma.

Just diagnosed with asthma

While there is no cure for asthma, a number of treatments can help effectively control this condition.

Treatment is based on two important goals:

  • relieving symptoms 
  • preventing future symptoms and attacks from developing

Asthma can also develop at any age. If you are diagnosed with asthma as a child, the symptoms may disappear during your teenage years. However, asthma can return in adulthood. If childhood symptoms of asthma are moderate to severe, it is more likely that the condition will persist or return later in life.

Successful prevention of 'attacks' can be achieved through a combination of medicines, lifestyle advice and identifying and then avoiding potential asthma triggers.

Patient organisations have local groups where you can meet others or talk on-line to people who have been diagnosed with asthma and undergone treatment. You may also find it helpful to talk about your experience of asthma with others in a similar position.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: June 2018

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Asthma and children: diagnosis and treatment - NPS MedicineWise

Children's asthma requires accurate diagnosis, regular treatment and review. Find out more about the importance of spirometry, age-appropriate medicines and written asthma action plans for children with asthma.

Read more on NPS MedicineWise website

Spirometry and its role in diagnosing children’s asthma - NPS MedicineWise

Spirometry can support a diagnosis of asthma for children aged 6 years and over, and for ongoing patient monitoring. Find out more about spirometry for children.

Read more on NPS MedicineWise website

Getting the right diagnosis through lung function tests | Lung Foundation Australia

Read more on Lung Foundation Australia website

Allergy testing - Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA)

Avoiding known allergic triggers is an important part of allergy and asthma management. Allergy testing (using Skin Prick tests or RAST blood tests) helps your doctor to confirm which allergens you are sensitive to, so that appropriate avoidance advice can be given.

Read more on ASCIA – Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy website

Allergy Testing - Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA)

Allergy tests help to identify or confirm what allergens are causing allergy and/or asthma symptoms. Skin prick tests or blood tests measure allergen specific Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. A positive result indicates sensitivity to an allergen. However, test results cannot be used on their own and should only be considered together with a patient’s history of symptoms.

Read more on ASCIA – Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy website

Treating Asthma in Children - Asthma Australia

How to treat Asthma in Children Once a diagnosis of asthma is determined, the doctor will discuss how best to treat your child

Read more on Asthma Australia website

Skin prick testing for allergies information | myVMC

Skin prick tests are used to diagnose allergies. Allergens are placed on the skin, which is then pricked to see if an allergic reaction occurs.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Diagnosing Severe Asthma - Asthma Australia

Consult a GP if you believe you have severe asthma. There is no single test but your GP may recommend you to a respiratory specialist.

Read more on Asthma Australia website

Asthma diagnosis and treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic - NPS MedicineWise

Health practitioners should encourage all patients with asthma to: know how to use their reliever and preventer medicines (if required) continue taking all medicines required to keep their asthma well controlled during this time

Read more on NPS MedicineWise website

Asthma, Respiratory diseases - Lab Tests Online AU

Asthma is a chronic inflammation and narrowing of airways. It is characterised by wheeze, shortness of breath, cough or chest tightness.

Read more on Lab Tests Online AU website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo