Updated 17 November 2017

40% of asthmatic kids do not know what an inhaler is

A new study highlights some of the challenges asthmatic children face on a daily basis.

Managing asthma can be challenging and getting children to use inhaler can be even more challenging.

A new study shows that not only do 40% of asthmatic kids not know what an inhaler is, but more than 42% of schoolchildren with a short-acting beta agonist inhaler said they didn't feel comfortable using it at school.

This is alarming considering that in South Africa asthma is the third most common cause of hospital admissions of children, yet only 2% of asthmatics receive treatment, according to a review by Health24.

With asthma, the lungs and airways become inflamed when exposed to triggers that can include pollen, catching a cold or having a respiratory infection. Childhood asthma can interfere with play, sports, school and sleep. Unmanaged asthma can cause dangerous asthma attacks.

Short- and long-acting medications

An online survey of almost 700 students with asthma showed that nearly 50% reported poor asthma control.

The British study was published in the Journal of Asthma.

Inhalers that contain short- and long-acting medications can help keep those attacks from happening, the study authors noted.

But the survey found that more than 42% of schoolchildren with a short-acting beta agonist inhaler said they didn't feel comfortable using it at school. In addition, more than 29% said they did not use it when they had wheezing.

Just over half (56%) of those with regular inhaled corticosteroids did not take them as prescribed. And nearly 42% did not know what the inhaler was for, according to the researchers from Queen Mary University of London.

Advice to parents

Parents need to fully understand how to use their child's asthma inhalers and medications, and monitor how often their child uses it. Health24 advises that parents and health care providers need to have an open form of communication when it comes to the child's health. 

Parents should also be sure that their child is using the correct inhaler or medication for their condition, as asthma differs in severity from person to person.

"This study is the first to measure asthma control in UK schools, and highlights an under-reporting of asthmatics in schools, as well as high rates of poor asthma control," corresponding study author Katherine Harris said in a university news release.

"These findings will inform the development of a school-based intervention, aimed at improving adherence to medication, knowledge and control," she added.

Jonathan Grigg, from the university's Blizard Institute, added: "The aim of inhaled therapy of asthma in children is to completely suppress symptoms, but we found that many children with regular asthma symptoms did not realise what good control should feel like."

Read more:

Who gets asthma? (Prevalence)

Breastfeeding protects against asthma

Researchers find asthma genes


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Asthma Expert

Professor Keertan Dheda has received of several prestigious awards including the 2014 Oppenheimer Award, and has published over 160 peer-reviewed papers and holds 3 patents related to new TB diagnostic or infection control technologies. He serves on the editorial board of the journals PLoS One, the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine, Lancet Respiratory Diseases and Nature Scientific Reports, amongst others.Read his full biography at the University of Cape Town Lung Institute

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