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Children and parents overestimate correct use of asthma inhalers by youngsters, study finds

Research has shown that almost all children with asthma who are confident in their inhaler abilities are using their devices incorrectly.


Better education is needed on asthma inhaler technique after research shows that almost all children who are confident in their inhaler technique are not using using their devices effectively

Many children with asthma think they are using their asthma inhaler medication correctly when they are not, making it difficult to keep the condition under control, a study has shown.

In a study published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (30 April 2019), the journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), researchers surveyed 65 pairs of parents and children aged 8–14 years and found that nearly all children (97%) misused their inhaler.

Only 5% of children who were confident in their inhaler technique used their inhaler without misuse, while 4% of children whose parents were confident in their children’s technique properly used their inhaler. None of the parents underestimated the children’s skills.

“We know from past studies that both parents and children overestimate the ability of children to properly use their inhaler,” said lead study author Anna Volerman.

“We examined whether parent and child confidence were the same and whether either was a good sign of the child’s actual ability to use the inhaler correctly. We found most parents and children overestimated the children’s ability based on high confidence by the child, despite inhaler misuse.”

Anna Murphy, consultant respiratory pharmacist at the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, commented on the paper: “The study findings are not new but the message is extremely important and valid today.

“You cannot assess inhaler technique by just asking the patient — they have to show you, ideally, or at least bring in a video of them using it. Even if their technique is acceptable it often can be improved.

“We need to ensure that patients, carers and healthcare professionals all realise the importance of optimising inhaler technique and ensuring that a trained healthcare practitioner confirms this by viewing the patient using their device.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20206483

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