Ask the Allergist: Teens and Medication Adherence



Q: What are some ways to encourage teenagers with asthma to make sure they take their medication every day?

Michael Blaiss, MD: Teenagers are a difficult group to deal with as patients. They are undergoing different emotional, hormonal and developmental changes, so allergists really have to communicate on their level to get them to understand their condition. And asthma is a chronic condition, something that has be managed every day.

The first thing allergists do is make sure the teenager understands that this is not a condition that will just go away, as many teenagers think. We also have to reassure them the medications they use are not going to cause problems.

We have to tell them that, even with asthma, they can do everything everyone else does at school or in sports. We have to build a relationship with the teenager — and by doing that we can get better patient adherence to medications.

Now anytime we treat patients with asthma, the goal is to have them administer their medication once per day. When patients need to use 2-3 times per day, the adherence rate drops dramatically.

With teens, some of the strategies I have used include telling them to keep their asthma inhaler or the medications they use for asthma around the bathroom sink. When teenagers wake up in the morning, they go to the bathroom and brush their teeth; if we encourage them to use their medication at the same time, then it’s a win-win.

For teenagers who may be a little more forgetful, I recommend keeping inhalers in different areas of the house – not just at the bathroom sink. Maybe keep one at the kitchen table so they remember to use it when they are having breakfast.

Allergists have to work with the teenager to improve medication adherence and help ensure their asthma is well controlled.


Michael Blaiss, MD, is clinical professor of pediatrics at Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, Georgia, and Executive Medical Director and Past President of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).


Have a medical question? Email editor@allergyasthmanetwork.org or write to Ask the Allergist, Allergy & Asthma Network, 8229 Boone Blvd., Suite 260, Vienna, VA 22182. 


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