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Asthma: Overcoming Obstacles to Taking Medicines - Topic Overview

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

Taking daily medicines is often one of the hardest things to do. Here is a list of reasons people may not take medicines. Some possible solutions are listed too.

Reasons people may not take medicines and some possible solutions
Reason you might not take your medicine Possible solutions

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

  • Ask the person to wait a minute while you take your medicine.
  • Don't put your medicine 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 medicine schedule. Make sure there is still a convenient time to take your medicine.
  • Always take your quick-relief medicine 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 medicines in your car or on your person.
  • Talk to your doctor about what you should do if you miss a dose. Can you make it up?

You are out of medicine.

  • Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about how long your medicine will last, and use a calendar or day planner to remind yourself to get new medicine.
  • 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 medicine.

  • Remember that you feel good because you are taking the medicine.
  • Make it a habit to take your medicine 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 medicines, and you are not sure what to take or when to take it.

  • Talk to your doctor 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 medicine in a way that will help you take the right medicine 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 medicine 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 medicine is working.

  • Remember that some medicines do not help immediately but take time.
  • Track your peak expiratory flow. You may not notice a difference when taking your medicine but your lung function may be better.
  • Talk to your doctor.

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 camera.gif with a metered-dose inhaler.
  • Ask your doctor about medicines that do not require an inhaler.

You have side effects or are worried about having them.

  • Talk to your doctor about side effects you are experiencing or that you worry about. You may be able to try another medicine.
  • If an upset stomach is a problem, ask your doctor if you can take the medicine 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 medicines and medical care that is 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 medicine.

  • Have others remind you or gently encourage you to take the medicine.
  • See your doctor.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: February 22, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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