How we teach children with asthma to use their inhaler: a scoping review

Patrick McCrossan*, Orla Mallon, Michael D. Shields, Catherine Russell, Lesley Kennedy, Dara O’Donoghue

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Background: One reason that asthma remains poorly controlled in children is poor inhaler technique. Guidelines recommend checking inhaler technique at each clinical visit. However, they do not specify how best to train children to mastery of correct inhaler technique. Many children are simply shown how to use inhalers which results in less than 50% with correct inhaler technique. The aim of this scoping review is to explore published literature on teaching methods used to train children to master correct inhaler technique.

Methods: We searched (from inception onwards): Medline, Embase, Scopus, Web of Science, CINAHL and the Cochrane library. We included quantitative studies, (e.g. randomised controlled trials, cohort studies and case-control studies), published from 1956 to present, on teaching inhaler technique to children with asthma. Data was extracted onto a data charting table to create a descriptive summary of the results. Data was then synthesised with descriptive statistics and visual mapping.

Results: Thirty-three papers were identified for full text analysis. Educational interventions were found to be taking place in a variety of clinical areas and by a range of healthcare professional disciplines. ‘Brief-Instruction’ and ‘Teach-Back’ were identified as two primary methods of providing inhaler technique training in the majority of papers. Secondary themes identified were; use of written instruction, physical demonstration, video demonstrations and/or use of inhaler devices to augment inhaler technique training.

Conclusion: There are a variety of means by which inhaler technique has been taught to children. These methods are likely applicable to all inhaler types and often involve some form of physical demonstration. Children of all ages can be trained to use their inhaler correctly and by a range of healthcare professionals. We have not analysed the effectiveness of these different interventions, but have described what has been trialled before in an attempt to focus our attentions on what may potentially work best. The majority of these methods can be dichotomised to either ‘Brief-Intervention’ or ‘Teach-Back’. Based on our analysis of this scoping review, we consider the following as areas for future research; how many times does a given intervention have to be done in order to have the desired effect? For what duration does the intervention need to continue to have a long-lasting effect? And, what is the best outcome measure for inhaler technique?
Original languageEnglish
Article number52
JournalItalian Journal of Pediatrics
Publication statusPublished - 01 Apr 2022


  • Research
  • Asthma
  • Inhaler
  • Technique
  • Children
  • Paediatrics


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