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Health experiences of adolescents with uncontrolled severe asthma

Abstract

Background and aims Many adolescents with asthma experience continued symptoms and impaired quality of life despite modern therapy. This study sought to understand their experience and to use this understanding to improve their clinical management.

Design and subjects Qualitative study based on in-depth semi-structured interviews conducted with adolescents with uncontrolled severe asthma.

Results 22 adolescents (11–18 years) with uncontrolled severe asthma were interviewed. Two of the overarching themes that emerged were: (A) medication and adherence; and (B) interaction with healthcare professionals and adherence with their advice. Despite frequent visits to clinic, some did not understand why they were using medications. Many felt that only some medications worked and were concerned about adverse effects. Factors related to intentional non-adherence were not being ‘bothered’ and conflicts with other activities. In particular, most were not using their spacer. Some though perceived a positive benefit to using their preventer treatment. Half the participants lived with a pet that they were sensitised to and two-thirds lived with a smoker. Adolescents felt involved in the clinic consultation and felt it was helpful but many did not take responsibility for interacting with health professionals. Parents were relied on to report symptoms, translate medical terms and remember the management plan.

Conclusions Adherence was often poor particularly with the use of spacers. Adolescents had a poor understanding of their medication and using it often conflicted with other activities. Adolescents are very reliant on their parents. Healthcare professionals need to work to empower them to gradually take on the responsibility for their asthma.

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