A few months ago, my youngest daughter was prescribed an asthma inhaler in order to treat her moderate to severe breathing difficulties during allergry season. I had never used an inhaler before, and neither had my 5 year old. So needless to day, we struggled a bit as we tried to figure out exactly how she should take this medication. I was never 100 percent convinced that we were getting it right, and after reading this recent study out of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I'm almost 100 percent confident that we were doing it worng.
According to this new study, 90 percent of kids using inhalers to control their asthma are NOT using them correctly. That's a huge - HUGE - number! And considering the number of kids that are struggling with asthma today, it represents a major lapse in childhood healthcare.
For the study, researchers tested 296 children between the ages of 8 and 16 years old who used one of four different devices to manage their asthma. The devices were a metered-dose inhaler (or puffer); a diskus (Advair), a turbuhaler (Pulimcort or Symbicort; and a peak-flow meter, which is not used to deliver medication but rather to measure lung function and determine if medicine is needed.
The researchers found that only 8.1 percent of kids used the puffer correctly. Not surprisingly, older kids fared a little better than their younger peers in performing all of the steps correctly. Twenty-one percent of kids used the diskus correctly and 15.6 percent used the turbuhaler correctly. The kids used the peak-flow meter correctly 23.9 percent of the time.
I realized rather quickly after coming home with my daughter's prescription that no one ever showed us how to use this thing. And the same was the case for the participants in this study. Researchers found that over 40 percent of health-care providers did not demonstrate or assess children’s use of their asthma medications even during asthma checkups.
After reading this study, I'm going to be sure to bring my daughter's inhaler to her next checkup so that her doctor can take a look at how we're doing it and give us both pointers if we're not doing it right (we're not.) Hopefully, this study will be an eye opener for all health care providers and pharmacists on the need to give both parents and kids better instruction on using asthma medication and more opportunities to assess how their patients are using it.
Does your child use asthma medication? Do you think they're using it correctly?