A new study of asthmatics has yielded somewhat surprising results for food allergy sufferers. The study shows that many with inhalers or auto-injection “pens” are using them incorrectly and that more training in their use should be warranted in general.

The study, titled Misuse of medical devices: a persistent problem in self-management of asthma and allergic disease was published on December 18 in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. The study involved 102 patients who’d been prescribed epinephrine and 44 prescribed asthma inhalers. Of those, 11 percent of the auto-injector users had used them before and eighty percent of the asthma inhaler users had used them before.

The volunteers showed researchers how they used their devices if/when they were needed. Only sixteen percent of them used an auto-injector correctly on themselves or others. Only seven percent used an inhaler correctly.

The study came about after study co-author Dr. Aasia Ghazi of Allergy and Asthma Specialists of Dallas had a call from a patient in the middle of a food allergy reaction. She was asking for the correct procedure for using her auto-injector. This prompted the doctor and colleagues to find out how many patients with prescriptions were similarly ill-equipped to actually use those meds.

Dr. Rana Bonds, lead author of the study, said that “Most patients made multiple mistakes and would not have benefited from self-administration of the potentially life-saving treatment if the need arose.”

Drawing out the mistakes made and percentage of users who understood their auto-injector’s use found that those prescribed within the past year had about a 10 percent retention of the instructions for proper use and as years added on to the time from prescription, the retention of use instructions fell.

The study seems to show that regular re-training and reminders about the use of auto-injectors and inhalers would benefit nearly all patients. Although the study group was relatively small, it’s unlikely that a larger group would post very different numbers, authors say.

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