Adolescents and asthma: Why bother with our meds?

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Abstract

Background:

Adherence to inhaled steroid regimens for asthma is poor in adults and children. Although it is assumed that nonadherence contributes to morbidity in older adolescents, investigation is limited.

Objective:

We sought to describe adherence to preventive asthma medications and explore relevant beliefs and attitudes in older urban adolescents, including their ideas for improving adherence.

Methods:

Quantitative and qualitative methods were used to collect data from a convenience sample of adolescents with asthma previously prescribed fluticasone/salmeterol (F/S). Two semistructured face-to-face interviews were conducted 1 month apart and analyzed for themes. F/S use was electronically monitored between visits and calculated as the number of actuations divided by the number of inhalations prescribed.

Results:

Forty participants, (15-18 years of age, 19 female subjects, 30 black/African American subjects, 11 Medicaid-insured subjects, and 24 previously hospitalized for asthma) with a median FEV1 of 98% of predicted value (range, 67% to 127%) had median adherence of 43% (range, 4% to 89%). Adherence was not associated with FEV1 or emergency department visits. Themes emerged from interviews as follows. Teens (1) take F/S inconsistently; (2) believe F/S is “supposed to help me breathe”; (3) dislike its taste; (4) are “too busy” and “forget”; and (5) recommend “reminder” solutions to poor adherence. Twenty percent believed that taking F/S was unnecessary, and another 18% expressed ambivalence about its benefits.

Conclusion:

Adherence was poor. Examining and acknowledging health beliefs of older teens in the context of their complicated lives might facilitate discussions about self-management.

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