Children who have asthma as well as their parents may be incorrectly assessing their asthma inhaler medication levels, according to a study.

The Study

Researchers questioned 50 asthmatic children and their parents on proper inhaler use and how they determined the level of medication in their inhalers.

The study found that 78% of the children and parents knew to shake the inhaler before use-but only half actually shook it when they were asked to demonstrate how they use it.

Of the participants in the study, 72% said they thought the inhaler was empty when it didn't make a puffing sound when it was used. However, researchers say this approach is inaccurate.

The number of audible puff sounds in each inhaler was much higher than the number of doses listed by the manufacturer. This means the patients continued to use inhalers after there was no medication in them.

Some patients and their parents floated in halers in water to figure out how much medicine was left in the inhalers.

This method is also inaccurate and dangerous, because water can collect at the top of the valve system, the study notes.

Best Bet

The most accurate way to keep track of medication levels in an inhaler, the researchers say, is to count the number of puffs and match them to the number of doses that are listed on the inhaler by the manufacturer. However, few asthma patients are given instructions on this method

Don't Use Inhalers To Prevent Asthma Attack

A beta-agonist, such as albuterol (Ventolin) or salmeterol (Serevent), should be used only during an asthma attack, and not to help prevent attacks.

New study: Asthma patients who used inhaled beta-agonists every day for at least one week were less responsive to subsequent doses and had greater lung inflammation than patients who used placebo inhalers before using a beta-agonist.

Reason: Overuse of beta-agonists creates a tolerance to its airway-opening effects and increases airway inflammation.

Self-defense: Ask your doctor whether it would be a good idea for you to use an inhaled corticosteroid, such as fluticasone (Flovent), and an inhaled anticholinergic, such as ipratropium (Atrovent), on a regular basis to try to minimize inflammation as well as asthma attacks.

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