x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Parents’ worry about inhalers puts asthmatic children at risk, doctors say

Misconceptions about the devices put people off using them and, in turn, increase risks for asthmatic children.

ABU DHABI // Parents’ fears that inhalers are addictive are leaving their children at greater risk of severe asthma attacks.

Dr Maha Darwich, a paediatrician at Dr Sulaiman Al Habib Medical Centre in Dubai, said there was a misconception about inhalers, particularly among Arab parents.

“They believe they will be addicted to the inhalers or ‘he will use this for life, he will never get out of this’,” Dr Darwich said.

“This is a common view among Arab people. If you go to the UK, they use it very, very widely, even in the accident and emergency ward in the hospital.”

Respiratory physician Dr Saicharan Bodi, of Burjeel Hospital in Abu Dhabi, said using inhalers was crucial for managing the disease.

“For children and adults, the inhalers are the mainstay for asthma treatment and have to be used in a proper way,” Dr Bodi said.

“It can become worse and result in more hospitalisations if not controlled. Asthmatic children get more sick and keep coming to the hospital in an emergency if it’s not controlled.”

Dr Bodi, from India, said the lung disease could be easily controlled if children followed the treatment, but if they did not they were more vulnerable to acute asthma attacks, a fact some parents did not realise.

“The parents are very apprehensive about using the inhalers on a regular basis for their children,” he said.

“There are still a lot of issues in the sense that parents think that the inhalers will be harmful in long-term usage, and sometimes that makes them apprehensive and they might stop it at an early stage.

“Maybe if the treatment is advised for six months they might only do it for one or two months. So what happens is, when there’s incomplete medication usage, it’s going to have effects on the long-term asthma control.”

Dr Bodi said the lack of faith in inhalers occurred in other countries, not just the UAE.

“When we explain to the parents about the usage and safety of inhalers, they usually take it,” he said.

“But in a general trend we still need to educate people about the safety of the inhalers and regular usage of inhaler medication, which is a mainstay of asthma treatment.

“Even for adult asthmatics, they have this concern.”

The frequency and length of time an inhaler should be used depends on the patient.

“The entry of the drug will be directly into the lungs through the inhalation method,” Dr Bodi said.

“The main problem in asthma is the constriction of air passages, which is going to be relieved by the inhaler medication when used on a regular basis.”

Based on her experiences in the UAE, Dr Darwich, from France, said some people did not know how to use inhalers, some used them incorrectly and others did not want to use them at all.

Instead, some buy a more expensive machine called a nebuliser to administer the medication, she said.

“The inhaler gives the same effect and it is not expensive,” she said.

“It’s very cheap, like Dh30 to Dh35, compared to a nebuliser, which is Dh400 to Dh500 at least.”

ecleland@thenational.ae