Fewer than one in 10 children with asthma use traditional inhalers correctly, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). The findings, published in the journal Pediatrics, find that while children have more success with newer inhaler designs, at best only one child in four gets it completely right.

The study looked at 296 North Carolina patients aged 8 to 16 years of age who used four different devices to manage their asthma. The devices included the meter-dose inhaler (commonly called a puffer); the diskus, a dry-powder inhaler delivering Advair; the turbuhaler, a dry-powder inhaler delivering Pulimcort or Symbicort; and the peak-flow meter, which does not deliver a drug but is used to measure lung function to determine if medicine is needed.

Only 8.1% of the children in the study performed all of the metered-dose inhaler steps correctly, Older children were more likely than younger children to get more of the metered-dose inhaler steps correct. With a diskus, 21.9% of the children performed all steps correctly, and 15.6% performed all of the turbuhaler steps correctly. Children using a peak-flow meter did so correctly 23.9% of the time.

The researchers also found that the majority of health care providers who participated in the study (41 providers at five clinics) did not demonstrate or assess children’s use of the four devices during pediatric asthma visits.

“It is crucial that health-care providers not only show a child how to use an inhaler correctly but also have the child demonstrate the device in front of a physician or pharmacist,” said Betsy Sleath, PhD, chair of pharmaceutical outcomes and policy division in the Eshelman School of Pharmacy at UNC. “Pediatric practices are extremely busy places so we need innovative ways to demonstrate and assess device technique among asthmatic children.”

Source: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill