Background: Clinical observation has shown that many asthma-affected children and their parents are not familiar with appropriate techniques for inhaler use. This may result in misuse, overdose, or diminished response of the administered therapeutic drugs, or may even result in unnecessary, repeated hospitalization. Inappropriate inhalation technique is hazardous to the safety of children with asthma and unnecessarily increases costs resulting from unnecessary rehospitalization.
Objective: We designed a study to evaluate the skills needed for inhaler use among children with asthma in Taiwan.
Subjects and methods: Schoolchildren with asthma, aged 8 to 13 years, were asked to demonstrate their inhalation technique. The inhalers used in this study were either metered-dose inhalers or dry-power inhalers. Assessment of the inhalation technique was made using a standardized inhaler checklist. A higher score indicates greater skill using the inhaler.
Results: This study surveyed 132 schoolchildren with asthma. Of those, only 23 (17.4%) asthmatic children who received inhalation therapy revealed good compliance with their medication regimens. No child was observed to have completed all inhaler techniques correctly. Those family members who participated in educational programs and who received instruction from health teams had higher scores for the inhaler checklist (P < 0.05). It was found that children who inhaled medication unaided had a better knowledge of asthma, and their drug inhalation technique was also more skillful (P < 0.03). By multiple regression analysis, we found that determinants of a child's skill at performing the inhalation maneuver included: number of asthma attacks within the preceding year, unaided application of inhaler therapy, older subject age, potential for subjects to receive instructions from parents regarding inhaler use, subjects reading related publications, and the family's degree of satisfaction with the physician's educational program. These variables contributed a total of 23% to variance in the subjects' inhalation technique.
Conclusion: This study revealed that most asthmatic children being treated with inhaler medication do not use such devices appropriately. More aggressive asthma education is necessary in Taiwan.