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Health Information Motivating Teens to Take Asthma Medication

Medication often plays a key part in helping asthma patients lead normal lives. Just try telling that to a teenager.

"Getting teenagers to take their daily asthma controller medications has always proven to be challenging, even though it is crucial to helping them to lead healthier lives," said Giselle Mosnaim, MD, an allergy and immunology specialist at Rush.

Now researchers hope a novel approach will motivate young patients — particularly those from lower-income, at-risk backgrounds — to make medication a part of their daily routine.

Mixing Music and Meds
In a recent pilot study, known as the Adolescent Disease Empowerment Persistency Technology (or ADEPT) trial, teens were given access to popular music on digital music players, along with an opportunity to mix in audio messages reminding them to take their asthma medication.

"When you're a teenager, you may feel like you're invincible, that asthma might happen to other people, but it's not going to happen to you," Mosnaim said, explaining why teens may be less inclined to take their medication. "Many teens don't really think they’re going to have trouble breathing or end up in an emergency room because of their asthma."

Fear of being seen as different, along with misconceptions about possible side effects, may also make teens reluctant to stick with their meds.

Support Network
That’s why, beyond simply providing music, the study focused on giving teens a supportive environment, with weekly get-togethers where they could meet to receive asthma education, talk with peers and record their own messages.

"Here we're getting teenagers to talk to other teens like themselves who are struggling with same problems they are," Mosnaim said.

That peer support appears to be a key to the study’s success. According to Mosnaim, ADEPT improved asthma controller adherence from around 40 percent to above 70 percent. "These initial results suggested that ADEPT could be a powerful support tool in helping teens to take their medication," she said.

Mosnaim is currently holding focus groups with teens who participated in the initial study to discuss what they think worked and what other components could be added. With funding from the National Institutes of Health, Mosnaim will be enrolling 90 teens this fall to expand the ADEPT intervention at Rush and several school-based health centers in the Chicago area.

The 411 on Asthma
Asthma is caused by inflammation of the airways and tightening of muscles around them, which can reduce airflow. Symptoms may include coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing and, in severe cases, extreme difficulty breathing and rapid pulse.

If you think you have asthma, consider making an appointment with your doctor or seeking immediate medical attention. Here are some tips from the National Institutes of Health:

Call your health care provider or go to the emergency room in the following instances:

  • An asthma attack requires more medication than recommended
  • Symptoms get worse or do not improve with treatment
  • You have shortness of breath while talking
  • Your peak flow meter measurement is 50 to 80 percent of your personal best

Go to the emergency room if you develop any of the following:

  • Drowsiness or confusion
  • Severe shortness of breath while at rest
  • A peak flow measurement of less than 50 percent of your personal best
  • Severe chest pain 

More Information at Your Fingertips:

Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

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