Teens Embarassed to Use Their Asthma Inhalers
16th June 2017
asthmaThe fact over 5 million people in the UK have asthma means there is a strong possibility you will have a friend or family member with the lung condition. In fact, you may already be aware that there are numerous famous faces with asthma too. Ask yourself, would you ever want to mock any of them for taking out their asthma inhaler and using it in front of you? It is very unlikely. After all, there is nothing out of the ordinary or funny about somebody using a potentially life-saving asthma inhaler. Despite this, there are still many asthmatics who are afraid to use their asthma inhalers in public and feel some degree of embarrassment, when really there is no need whatsoever to actually feel like that. A new report – published in BMJ Open - however warns that teenagers with asthma are deciding to not use their asthma inhalers due to ‘social stigma’ and thus are putting their lives in danger. Researchers from Queen Mary University, London, carried out a survey, quizzing adolescent asthma sufferers and also analysing a decades’ worth of comments left by patients on internet forums. Teens are apparently deciding to use their inhalers only a quarter of the time they should be using them and that they believe film and television often depict having asthma as a ‘weakness’ to have. One sufferer noted: “It [asthma] was so regularly portrayed in films as being more of an emotional/psychological problem suffered by over anxious people, which was then magically fixed by a quick squirt of a blue inhaler and all is well again.” Some of the adolescents were fearful about any potential side effects their drugs may have, such as acne, gaining weight, with other reasons behind not using inhalers correctly/sufficiently being forgetfulness, poor technique and a lack of routine. Another worry teenagers have is that they believe some asthma inhalers ‘resemble sex toys’, and they don’t like being known as having a chronic health condition. There are around 1.1 million youngsters in Britain receiving treatment for asthma so clearly something needs to be done to break the social stigma and teach our younger generations that it is perfectly acceptable to be seen using asthma inhalers, with nothing shameful about it. Britain has the unwanted tag of being amongst the largest asthma death rates in Europe. Asthma UK say that an average of three asthma patients lose their lives each day. However, 2 out of 3 of the deaths could have been averted. Health experts are now urging doctors to do more to discuss the severe repercussions that can arise from ignoring the condition. “It is concerning that that the social stigma of asthma continues to be underestimated, said Dr Andrew Whittamore, a GP involved in the research. “We need to be acutely aware of how children and young adults have a need to feel normal.” Dr Whittamore says that using a preventer inhaler for at least 80% of the recommended time can reduce the inflammation that induces symptoms, which therefore can decrease the risk of suffering from a serious asthma attack. Dr Anna De Simoni, a GP, who led the research, said: “I was surprised by the stigma associated with asthma and using inhalers. “I now now check social issues associated with asthma diagnosis and inhaler treatment and discuss how accepting my patients are of their inhaler devices and potential side effects.”