Adolescents and asthma: Why bother with our meds?

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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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