Objectives: Administration of oral corticosteroids at the onset of an upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) can be effective in the management of acute asthma exacerbations in children. This study was designed to identify barriers to parent-initiated implementation of clinical practice guideline-recommended use of oral corticosteroids for prophylaxis against severe asthma exacerbations in children.
Methods: Twenty-seven children who presented to BC Children's Hospital with URTI-induced asthma exacerbations were recruited. Parents received a filled prescription for a course of oral corticosteroids to be used at the earliest onset of their child's next URTI. Each family was contacted monthly over a 1-year period to inquire about URTI events, asthma symptoms, medication use and health care utilization. Focus groups were held with family physicians, paediatricians and parents; transcripts were analyzed qualitatively to identify key themes.
Results: Incidence of URTI events among participants was high (85%). Uptake of study medication was low; 44% used the medication as directed at their first URTI event. Eleven per cent of the patients who used the study medication also visited the emergency department for an exacerbation. Focus groups identified four main barriers to the effective use of parent-initiated oral corticosteroids: physician resistance and conflicting messages from providers; parent uncertainty about oral corticosteroids; multiple caregivers and relative ease of access to an emergency department.
Conclusion: We have identified key barriers to the effective use of parent-administered oral corticosteroids as an asthma management strategy and gained important insights regarding the research that is required to enhance the applicability of the strategy.