The answer to this is not as straight forward as the question! GPs and paediatricians are unwilling to label a child as “asthmatic” too early on in life and indeed it seems to be later and later before we will get off the fence.
In Britain we diagnose and treat asthma according to the British Thoracic Society and Scottish Intercollegiate Network guidelines. These are updated periodically and the latest version was published this year (2011).
If your child only wheezes when they have a cold and they don’t really respond to a blue “puffer” then asthma is unlikely. Features in your child’s presentation which may suggest asthma include recurrent wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness which is brought on by things like exercise, a change in the weather, laughter or emotion and contact with pets. Family and personal history of eczema, asthma, hayfever, food allergies are all markers of possible asthma in a wheezy child as is feeling significantly better with blue inhalers (eg. salbutamol, Ventolin).
A fantastic resource for parents of wheezing children whether they have asthma or not is http://www.asthma.org.uk/. There is even a video on how to use your inhaler and spacer.