Asthma: Overcoming Obstacles to Taking Medicines


Taking medicines for asthma every day can be hard to get used to. You may have several reasons why you find it hard to take your medicines. But figuring out how to handle these challenges can help you take good care of yourself.

Here are some challenges and possible solutions. Maybe some of the reasons below are challenges you have with taking your medicines.

Reasons people may not take asthma medicines and possible solutions

Reason you might not take your medicine

Possible solutions

Someone or something interrupts you when you're 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's 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'll see it, such as in your car or on a house key.
  • Use a reminder app on your smartphone.

Something happens during the day so that you can't take it.

  • Always keep extra medicines with you.
  • Talk to your doctor about what you should do if you miss a dose. Can you make it up?

You're out of medicine.

  • Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about how long your medicine will last. 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.
  • Use an automatic refill service if your doctor or pharmacy offers it.

You feel good, so you don't take your medicine.

  • Remember that you feel good because you're 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 aren't sure what to take or when to take them.

  • Talk to your doctor or pharmacist and write down what they tell 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.
  • Use a reminder app on your smartphone.

You don't think the medicine is working.

  • Remember that some medicines don't help immediately but may take time.
  • Ask your doctor about tracking 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're having problems using an inhaler or don't know how to use it.

  • Ask your doctor or nurse how to use an inhaler.
  • Use a spacer with a metered-dose inhaler.
  • Ask your doctor about medicines that don't need an inhaler.

You have side effects or are worried about having them.

  • Talk to your doctor about side effects you are having 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 corticosteroid medicines 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 medicines and medical care.

  • 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.
  • Ask your doctor if there is a generic brand you can take to save money.
  • Contact the drug company or ask your doctor to do this. Some drug companies have programs that help people get medicine if they can't afford it.

Your mood or feelings may make it hard to take the medicine.

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


Current as of: August 6, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

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