Asthma sufferers 'using inhalers wrongly'

A study found the majority of people with severe allergies and asthma sufferers were unable to use the devices they had been given effectively

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The Independent Online

Asthma sufferers and individuals with severe allergies do not know how to use their medical devices resulting in potentially tragic consequences, according to a new study.

Only 16 per cent of people knew how to use an epinephrine injector, used when someone is undergoing a life-threatening allergic reaction. And just 7 per cent were able to use an asthma inhaler as instructed.

Research has shown that anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction, is becoming more prevalent.

Correctly injecting epinephrine into a muscle will stop the reaction, and can be life-saving, but too few people are able to properly administer the injection.

Dr Aasia Ghazi, who co-authored the report, said: "We had a patient call in the middle of a reaction, and she didn't remember how to use the epinephrine injector.

"That's why we looked to see what's going on, and what are the barriers that keep patients from using these devices properly? A life can be saved with an epinephrine injection. It's a big deal," she added.

 

The most common error when using an epinephrine injection was not holding it in place for at least 10 seconds; followed by failure to place the needle of the device on the thigh and not pushing down forcefully enough to release the injection.

Dr. Rana Bonds, lead author of the study, said: “Most patients made multiple mistakes and would not have benefited from self-administration of the potentially life-saving treatment if the need arose.”

While the outcomes are unlikely to be as calamitous from misusing an inhaler, compared to failing to correctly use an epinephrine injection, poor use can nevertheless lessen the general effectiveness of the drug.

It was found that most inhaler users were able to complete at least half of the steps associated with usage correctly. The errors most commonly displayed would result in a reduced dose of medication, rather than the user receiving no medication at all.

Dr Samantha Walker, director of research and policy at Asthma UK, told the BBC: “You wouldn't give someone a new car without them having driving lessons first, so if you are going to invest in prescribing a lifetime of asthma medicines, it's crucial that health care professionals ensure that their patients know how to use them.”

The study was published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and is scheduled to appear in January 2015.

It followed more than 145 people using epinephrine injections and inhalers to discover how they used their devices compared with established standards.

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