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Asthma: Overcoming Obstacles to Taking Medicines

Topic Overview

Asthma is a long-lasting (chronic) disease that may last throughout your life—you must treat it long term. Taking medicines and following a management plan can be difficult over a long period of time.

Taking daily medicines is often one of the hardest things to do. Here is a list of reasons people may not take medicines. Some possible solutions are listed too.

Reasons people may not take medicines and some possible solutions

Reason you might not take your medicine

Possible solutions

Someone or something interrupts you when you are 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 is 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 will see it, such as in your car or on a house key.

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

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

You are out of medicine.

  • Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about how long your medicine will last, and 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.

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

  • Remember that you feel good because you are 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 are not sure what to take or when to take it.

  • Talk to your doctor or pharmacist and write down what he or she tells you, or ask that a calendar be set up for you.
  • Use colour-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 washroom 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.

You don't think the medicine is working.

  • Remember that some medicines do not help immediately but 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 are having difficulty using an inhaler or don't know how to use it.

  • Get instruction on how to use an inhaler.
  • Use a spacer with a metered-dose inhaler.
  • Ask your doctor about medicines that do not require an inhaler.

You have side effects or are worried about having them.

  • Talk to your doctor about side effects you are experiencing 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 the medicines that are needed to treat asthma.

  • Get in touch with social services or religious groups about possible help.
  • Get in touch with social services to see if there is a government program that may be able to help you afford medicine.
  • Talk to your doctor. He or she may have samples you can use.
  • Contact the drug company or ask your doctor to do this. Some drug companies have programs that help people get medicine if they cannot afford it.

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

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


Current as of: October 18, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Donald Sproule MDCM, CCFP - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Rohit K Katial MD - Allergy and Immunology
Elizabeth T. Russo MD - Internal Medicine