Myths about asthma spacer devices prevail

Many believe they are only for children
  • Deborah Condon

A new survey by the Asthma Society of Ireland has found that many myths about spacer devices prevail, including the mistaken belief that they are only for children.

Around 470,000 people in Ireland have asthma, including one in five children. An inhaler is the most effective method of giving asthma medication as it ensures that the medication goes directly to the lungs where it is needed, using a smaller dosage than would be required with tablets. A spacer device is a plastic container with a mouthpiece or mask at one end, and space to insert an inhaler at the other.

Spacer devices ensure the person with asthma gets the maximum benefit from their medication and helps direct it to where it is needed in the lungs.

However, a recent survey of over 2,300 people found that 41% of people with asthma do not use their spacer device regularly, while 48% have either not used one in the last year, or have never used one at all.

Some one in five people believe the devices are only for children, while 37% of people with children with asthma said their child does not have access to a spacer device in school. Furthermore, 33% said their child would feel very or somewhat embarrassed using the device in school.

Commenting on the findings, Asthma Society CEO, Sarah O'Connor, said that they are ‘very frightening', as they show a ‘huge gap' in people's understanding of why they should use a spacer device. They also suggest that people are ‘not getting optimal delivery of medication to their lungs'.

"Some 60% of people in Ireland have uncontrolled asthma and one person dies every week from asthma. A spacer device should be used every time a spacer-compatible inhaler is used, assuming the patient has been educated about how to use their device," she commented.

She explained that the device ensures the user gets the maximum benefit from their spacer-compatible asthma medication and helps direct it down into the lungs where it is needed.

"Spacer devices also decrease the risk of side-effects of using an inhaler alone and they are also more cost effective than using an inhaler by itself as less medication is lost," Ms O'Connor pointed out.

The survey revealed that 9% of people experience asthma attacks on a weekly basis, however overall, 41% of people with asthma do not visit their GP after an attack.

The Asthma Society has launched a campaign, Mystery of Spacers, in order to raise awareness of the importance of using these devices.

According to the society's medical director, Dr Marcus Butler, one of the very worrying findings from the survey is the fact that so many children with asthma have no access to a spacer device in school.

"This results in less reliable deposition of rescue/reliever medication into the airways of the lungs if a child needed their blue inhaler at school, such as if asthma symptoms were triggered by exercise.

"At the same time, the survey indicated people felt they understood the spacer device's role in medication delivery. Parents need to ensure their children are using their spacer device every time they use their spacer-compatible inhaler and to ensure that their child is practising good spacer technique themselves or with adult supervision," he commented.

For more information on the Mystery of Spacers campaign, including video tips on how to use them properly, click here


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