Many Make Mistakes with Asthma Medication

Only half shake inhaler before use, study finds

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MONDAY, Oct. 11, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Many children with asthma and their parents may be incorrectly assessing asthma inhaler medication levels, says a study in the October issue of Chest.

Researchers questioned 50 children with asthma and their parents on their understanding of inhaler use and the methods they use to assess medication levels in the inhaler.

The study found that 78 percent of the children and parents knew they were supposed to shake the inhaler before use. But only half actually shook the inhaler when they were asked to demonstrate how they use it.

Seventy-two percent of the study participants said they thought the inhaler was empty when it didn't make a puffing sound when they used it. But the researchers found this approach was inaccurate. The number of audible puff sounds in each inhaler was much higher than the number of doses listed by the manufacturer. That means the patients continue to use the inhaler after it had no more medication in it.

Some of the patients and their parents floated the inhaler in water to assess its remaining medication levels. This method is also inaccurate and potentially dangerous, due to water collection at the top of the valve system, the study said.

Counting the number of puffs and matching them to the number of doses listed on the inhaler is the most accurate method of keeping track of inhaler medication levels, the researchers said. But few patients are instructed on this method.

More information

The American Lung Association has more about asthma medications for children.

SOURCE: Chest, news release, Oct. 11, 2004

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