Ask The Advocates: Remembering To Take Your Medication
Community Question: Are there any tips on remembering when to take asthma medication? We asked our advocate team of respiratory therapists and asthma educators, and this is what they said:
Response from Lyn Harper, MPA, BSRT, RRT:
Here are a few tips to help you remember:
- If you have a cell phone or tablet, there are some great apps for setting reminders; specifically medication reminders. Try one of them – most are free. Most cell phones have an alarm feature that can be set for any time you choose. So, you could set the alarm to go off when you need to take your medication. Usually, these can be set for multiple times throughout the day.
- Incorporate taking your meds with another daily routine, such as brushing your teeth. This works well especially if you take your meds in the morning and at night. Get in the habit of only brushing your teeth after you’ve taken your meds. It might help initially to put a Post-It note on the mirror in your bathroom.
- I know it sounds silly, but AARP recommends using memory aids such as repeating the instructions to yourself 5-10 times, reading them aloud, and even singing the instructions to yourself. You might want to do that last one when you’re home alone. Try a few and let us know what works for you! But, I think you’ll be surprised at the results.
Response from Leon C. Lebowitz, RRT:
This can be a fairly common concern for people who are on a medication regimen to help treat their asthma condition. Patients do best when they are compliant with their medication and medication schedule. Most medications are scheduled to be taken once, twice, three, or four times a day. It is best if you take the same medication at the same time each day based on the prescribed schedule ordered by your physician. Try using these tips:
- Once a day- take the medication with the same meal each day (before or after). Since you are not likely to skip this selected meal, you will be compliant with the medication schedule.
- Twice a day- take the medication with breakfast and dinner. Twice-a-day dosing is generally spaced about 12 hours apart.
- Three times a day-take the medication with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Some might say this spacing should be eight hours apart, but you may be better off being compliant during your waking hours. This will provide more of a guarantee by taking the medication with meals.
- Four times a day - take the medication with meals and then your last dose at bedtime.
An alternative to following meal scheduling would be to take all your medications based on the clock. If this is more suitable for you, try using these tips:
- Twice a day-take the medication at 8am and again at 8pm.
- Three times a day- take the medication at 8am, then at 4pm and again at 12am.
- Four times a day- take the medication at 10am, then again at 2pm, then at 6pm, and finally at 10pm.
If this schedule is what you would prefer, you can set your cell phone alarm with 'medication reminders' in order to ensure that you take the medication.
These tips are meant to assist in being compliant with medication administration for yourself. Making certain to take medication on a consistent, regular basis goes a long way towards controlling asthma symptoms. It is important to develop a medication schedule that works for you and then to stick to the schedule.
Response from Lorene Alba, AE-C:
Remembering to take your asthma medications can be a challenge, especially if taking daily medication is new for you. Daily asthma medications reduce swelling and muscle tightening in the airways, reducing asthma symptoms and avoiding flare-ups. These medications, known as controllers, only work if taken daily as prescribed and should be taken even when you are feeling well.
- Since you are already in the habit of brushing your teeth in the morning and at night, a good tip is to place your controller inhaler next to your toothbrush. Seeing the inhaler with your toothbrush will visually remind you to use it. (Helpful tip: to avoid getting thrush, rinse your mouth out and spit after using your controller inhaler. An easy way to do this is to brush your teeth after using your inhaler, helping to remove any medication that is left in your mouth or on your tongue.) After a few days, taking your daily medication will become a habit!
- You can also set an alarm or reminder on your smartphone, or download one of the many free smartphone health or asthma apps to help track when to take your medications.
Response from Theresa Cannizzaro, Respiratory Therapist:
Remembering to take asthma medications can be a source of frustration for many asthmatics, especially those who are newly diagnosed or have had a recent medication change or addition. Thanks to modern technology, there are many ways to help yourself remember.
- Setting an alarm on your watch or cell phone is a great way to help you remember.
- What I do that helps me remember to take my asthma medications is I keep my daily medications on my bathroom counter next to where I store my makeup and toothbrush. This way I see them in the morning and in the evening and I remember to take them. I make it a part of my daily morning and evening routine.
- Leaving a note on the steering wheel of your car or back of the front door is another great little way to help remind yourself to take your meds.
- If your doctor has informed you that you need to pre-medicate with your rescue inhaler before being active or working out, make a note and pin it to your gym bag or on your water bottle.
- Enlist family members or friends to help remind you until you get into the routine and don't forget.
Don't be hard on yourself! Just like anything else, it takes time to get used to.
Editor's Note: The information in this article cannot be substituted for medical advice. Always consult your doctor before beginning, ending, or changing treatments.
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