The simple way those with asthma can stay out of the hospital
Asthma – the leading cause of hospitalization for children ages 3 to 12 – is responsible for more than 1.8 million visits to hospital emergency rooms in the United States every year. Now, a new study suggests that something as simple as face-to-face instruction on how to use a rescue inhaler could make a meaningful difference.
Researchers at the University of Chicago conducted a study of patients with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), both of which often require inhalers to deliver fast-acting medications to regulate breathing. Patients were split into two groups – one group read the literature packaged with the medication and the other group was given a short hands-on training on how to properly use an inhaler.
Among those that received the hands-on training, more than 90 percent were later able to use their inhalers properly, compared to just 40 percent of those who didn’t receive the training.
“Asthma is a significant and growing problem in the southern region of the Chicago metro area and we’ve worked to address it through patient education similar to that used in this study,” says Dr. Krisha Sunkara, a pulmonologist on staff at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. “We partner with local schools to offer students asthma education through our Kickin’ Asthma program, for instance, and we’ve seen significant improvements.”
Importantly, the study showed positive long-term impacts as well. Just 17 percent of the patients in the group that received hands-on instruction had acute flare-ups in the month after leaving the hospital, compared to more than a third of their peers. And after three months, 52 percent of the study participants that received the hands-on instruction were using their inhalers correctly, compared to just 24 percent of those who had not.
“It’s encouraging to see such simple, low-cost interventions making a difference,” says Dr. Sunkara. “If spending just a few extra minutes with patients can empower them to take control of their health, it is well worth our time.”
While medication can be an important piece of successfully managing asthma, Dr. Sunkara offers these additional tips for preventing asthma attacks:
- Learn what triggers your asthma and try to avoid known triggers.
- Inspect your home to make sure mold is not present.
- Exercise regularly. Aerobic exercise can help control asthma symptoms for some, but be sure to consult with your doctor before starting a new routine.
- Have an asthma action plan in place and alert your doctor if you see your condition worsening.
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.