Factors that impact asthma medication adherence in children

asthma adherence children and parents

Trees to climb, bugs to examine, races to run, dolls to dress, puzzles to complete, Lego towers to build, books to read, butterflies to catch, paths to explore, holes to dig, friends to hug, dogs to play with, pictures to draw, worlds to imagine.

To a child, every day is full of wonder and excitement. It’s no wonder that in amongst a full to-do list of exploring and learning, remembering to take their asthma medication can be difficult. Asthma medication adherence is at its lowest in children, and while there’s definitely an age-correlation showing younger kids have more trouble remembering, there are other factors that play a role.

Understanding the factors that contribute to this low adherence can help us to figure out how to help our children remember to take their medication. Skipping asthma medication makes it vastly less effective, which can endanger your child’s health. That’s why it’s vital to step in and contribute to helping them keep up with adherence:

A recent study in NZ by Chan et al. investigated factors that are associated with asthma medication adherence. They found the following:

1. Learning style

Linking learning style to adherence hasn’t been well studied, but it makes sense that your child’s learning style would influence their understanding of their own health and the benefits of taking medication. Work with your child to find methods that match their learning style – for example, if your child learns aurally, then reminders that make noise might really help. A child with a visual learning style might prefer a chart they can mark off.

2. Ethnicity

A 2016 study from ERJ Open Research, Chan AHY. et al studied 101 New Zealand children to determine what, if any, factors influenced their asthma medication adherence. They discovered that ethnicity played a role, with children of Asian descent being the most likely to adhere. There are few studies to suggest why this may be the case, but the researchers believed it could have to do with cultural attitudes toward being compliant with people in authority.

Maori children had the poorest adherence, closely followed by New Zealand Europeans and children of Pacific descent.

3. Number of people in the house

The same 2016 study showed that the number of people living in a home had a significant impact on adherence in children. The researchers believed this may be because with less children to care for or other relatives to manage, parents are more likely to actively monitor their child’s adherence. There were some correlations between this factor and ethnicity, suggesting some cultural impact on the number of people in a home.

4. Beliefs about medication

Studies by Drotar and Bonner show that parental beliefs about medication (and to a lesser extent, the beliefs of the children) have a significant impact on asthma medication adherence. This may refer to cultural or religious beliefs, or simply to beliefs around the effectiveness or necessity of medication.

What’s interesting about these factors is that they are inherent to your situation – you can’t change your ethnicity or the learning style of your child. What you can do is find ways to make adherence easier, whatever your situation. The most important thing is that you monitor your child so you can see exactly what they are – and are not – taking.


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