Overcoming obstacles in taking asthma medications

Asthma is a long-lasting (chronic) disease that may last throughout your life—you must treat it long-term. Taking medication and following a management plan can be difficult over a long period of time.

Taking daily medications is often one of the most difficult things to do. Here is a list of reasons people may not take medications, and some possible solutions.

Reasons people may not take medications, and some possible solutions
Reason you do not take your medication Possible solutions

Someone or something interrupts you when you are taking your medication.

  • Ask the person to wait a minute while you take your medication.
  • Don't put your medication down. Keep it in your hand or on your lap. This way it remains in front of you, and you are less likely to forget about it.

You make a change in what you usually do every day.

  • Think about how the change will affect your medication schedule. Make sure there is still a convenient time to take your medication.
  • Always take your quick-relief medication with you.
  • Ask a friend to remind you.
  • Place a reminder someplace where you will see it, such as in your car or on a house key.

Something happens during the day so that you can't take it.

  • Always keep extra medications in your car or on your person.
  • Talk to your health professional about what you should do if you miss a dose. Can you make it up?

You are out of medicine.

  • Talk with your health professional or pharmacist about how long your medication will last, and use a calendar or day planner to remind yourself to get new medication.
  • Get your refill before your supply runs out.
  • Ask your pharmacist to give you a phone call a few days before you need to refill your prescription.

You feel good, so you don't take your medication.

  • Remember that you feel good because you are taking the medication.
  • Make it a habit to take your medication at the same time that you do one of your daily activities, such as when you eat or when you brush your teeth.
  • Ask a family member or friend to remind you.

You take many medications, and you are not sure what to take or when to take it.

  • Talk to your health professional or pharmacist and write down what he or she tells you, or ask that a calendar be set up for you.
  • Use color-coding or "personalize" your medication in a way that will help you take the right medication at the right time.

You just forget.

  • Put a sign in the bathroom or on the refrigerator as a reminder.
  • Make it a habit to take your medication at the same time that you do one of your daily activities, such as when you eat or when you brush your teeth.
  • Ask a family member or friend to remind you.

You don't think the medication is working.

  • Remember that some medications do not help immediately, but take time.
  • Track your peak expiratory flow. You may not notice a difference when taking your medication, but your lung function may be better.
  • Talk to your health professional.

You are having difficulty using an inhaler or don't know how to use it.

  • Get instruction on how to use an inhaler.
  • Use a spacer with a metered-dose inhaler.
  • Ask your health professional about medications that do not require an inhaler.

You have side effects or are worried about having them.

  • Talk to your health professional about side effects you are experiencing or that you worry about. You may be able to try another medication.
  • If an upset stomach is a problem, ask your health professional if you can take the medication with a meal.
  • Remember that corticosteroids are not the same as steroids that athletes sometimes abuse to increase their performances or the size of their muscles (anabolic steroids).

You may not be able to afford the medications and medical care needed to treat asthma.

  • Get in touch with social services or religious groups about possible help.
  • Get in touch with Medicaid, a government program that may be able to help you afford medicine and medical treatment.
  • Talk to your doctor. He or she may have samples you can use.
  • Contact the drug company or ask your doctor to do this. Some drug companies have programs that help people get medicine if they cannot afford it.

Your mood or feelings may make it difficult to take the medication.

  • Have others remind you or gently encourage you to take the medication.
  • See your health professional.

Last Updated: April 21, 2009

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