Betsy Sleath of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Eshelman School of Pharmacy and colleagues studied 296 North Carolina patients ages 8-16, who used four different devices for their asthma.
The devices were: the metered-dose inhaler, commonly called a puffer; the diskus, a dry-powder inhaler delivering Advair; the turbuhaler, a dry-powder inhaler delivering Pulmicort or Symbicort; and the peak-flow meter, which does not deliver a drug but is used to measure lung function to determine if medicine is needed.
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found 8.1 percent of children performed all of the metered-dose inhaler steps correctly, but older children did better than younger children.
More than 21 percent of the children using the diskus performed all steps correctly, while 15.6 percent performed all of the turbuhaler steps properly and children using a peak-flow meter did so correctly 23.9 percent of the time.
"It is crucial that healthcare providers not only show a child how to use an inhaler correctly but also have the child demonstrate the device in front of a physician or pharmacist," Sleath said in a statement.