What to do When Your Child Refuses to Take Their Asthma Meds
Once you have defined your child’s asthma treatment plan with your physician, it’s time to figure out the best way to incorporate medication administration into your busy life. Just like your child might be hesitant to try certain foods, or initially to brushing his/her teeth, you may be met with resistance when starting taking a new medication.
Before reading any further, the most important thing I want to get across is an acknowledgement that it can be hard to get your child to take a new medication. As a doctor I had written prescriptions countless times, demonstrated techniques to parents and the child, and explained the importance of taking it. But until it was my own 4 year old child getting a new inhaler with a mask, I didn’t realize how hard the non-medical part could be.
For what seemed like weeks (but in reality I think was less than 10 days), it was a battle twice a day, her in tears and screaming and me feeling awful! I used the techniques below and now over a year later it is no big deal at all. Her little brother actually gets sad that he doesn’t get to take medicine and will often take the inhaler and mask and hold it up to his mouth to pretend he is getting medicine too. So however tough it is at first, know that it will get better!
To help ease the transition or optimize your current asthma medication regimen with your child, we've compiled three tried and true techniques that we recommend to parents. The key is to find what's best for you. I hope that you find the information below helpful. And if you have found other techniques helpful, please share them with us by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maintain a Reliable Routine
Kids are creatures of habit. Since achieving asthma control means taking asthma medication exactly as prescribed, it can be helpful to incorporate medication administration during a part of your child’s routine that they already feel comfortable with. For instance, if you have a twice-a-day tooth brushing schedule set in stone with your child, try adding the asthma treatment to that routine (for a steroid inhaler it is great to take right before brushing teeth to reduce the risk of thrush). Another reliable option is to align asthma medication administration with breakfast and dinner, or breakfast and bedtime. Keeping medication visible at these locations will help signal to your child that their asthma treatment is an important part of their routine.
Make a Reward Chart
Utilizing a reward chart for taking asthma medications can be a successful technique to help your child perceive the activity as an opportunity to display good behavior. A child receives a sticker each time they successfully take their medication without resistance or complaints. At the end of each week or month, your child can then earn small rewards for their behavior, like an extra book at bedtime, an episode of TV, new toy or a favorite meal. The reward chart becomes a simple visual affirmation of good behavior each day. Often once the habit is fully established then the reward chart is no longer needed.
Empower Your Child With Responsibility
As your child gets older, it can be effective to encourage proper medication intake through giving your child a certain level of control over when and how they take their medication. If your child is resistant to the smell of the medication, let them help you put a bit of flavored lip balm on the mask to contain the odor. If they have a favorite stuffed animal or doll, it can be empowering for some children to pretend to administer the medication to the toy so that they feel a sense of control over their routine. Other kids might prefer to sing a song or do a dance in preparation for the medication. Whichever method suits your child’s unique personality, there are countless ways to make the process fun and celebratory.
In conjunction with these administration adherence techniques, please note that if your child uses an inhaler as part of their asthma treatment plan, using a spacer with the inhaler is always recommended to increase the amount of medication delivered. Every child is unique, so it’s important to remember that it might take a bit of time to discover which medication delivery rituals work best.