Parents' Worries Hamper Kids' Asthma Treatment

Moms and dads withhold drugs because of side effect concerns, study finds

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TUESDAY, Sept. 4, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Parents' worries about the safety of asthma drugs may prevent asthmatic children from getting the relief they deserve, a new study suggests.

According to data released in the September issue of Pediatrics, one in six parents of children with asthma is more concerned about the side effects of asthma medications than their child's need for the drugs. Addressing parental worries may increase adherence to needed asthma drugs, the researchers said.

An estimated 10 million children in the United States suffer with asthma, yet only half of prescribed medications are taken daily as directed.

"Children today can be virtually symptom-free, thanks to modern preventive medications," lead author Kelly Conn, of the University of Rochester Medical Center, said in a prepared statement. "But kids rely on their parents to make health decisions for them, so we need to know what parents are thinking as we partner with them to achieve this goal."

Conn's team interviewed parents of 622 Michigan children who reported using at least one preventive asthma medication. The parents completed a Beliefs About Medications Questionnaire which contrasts parents' belief in the need for the medication against their worry about taking medications on a regular basis. Worries might include concerns about side effects or whether the medication is habit-forming.

The data showed that 77 percent of parents felt their child's need for the medications outweighed their concerns about pharmaceutical safety. However, 17 percent were more concerned about the drugs' potential to harm their child than they were convinced of its necessity. The remaining 6 percent were torn.

The researchers also asked the parents to complete a Medication Adherence Scale, which assesses how well they help keep their children on the medication regimen.

The study results showed that parents' beliefs affected how regularly their kids received the medications. Parents who believed in the need for the medications were more likely to keep their kids on track with the drugs. Still, only 14 percent of parents reported perfect adherence to the asthma medicine plan.

"These findings suggest a great deal of promise for improving symptom control just by addressing parents' worries and providing accurate information about medication side effects," Conn said.

Additionally, the study found that minority parents were more likely to worry about the drugs' side effects than believe in the necessity of medication. This is concerning, Conn said, because minority children are at greater risk for asthma.

More information

To learn more about childhood asthma, visit the American Lung Association.

SOURCE: University of Rochester, news release, Sept. 4, 2007

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