Communication between emergency department (ED) staff and parents of children with asthma may play a role in asthma exacerbation management. We investigated the extent to which parents of children with asthma implement recommendations provided by the ED staff. Method: We asked questions on asthma triggers, ED care (including education and discharge recommendations), and asthma management strategies used at home shortly after the ED visit and again at 6 months.
A total of 148 children with asthma were recruited. Thirty-two percent of children were not on inhaled corticosteroids prior to their ED visit. Eighty percent of parents identified upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) as the primary trigger for their child’s asthma. No parent received or implemented any specific asthma strategies to reduce the impact of URTIs; 82% of parents did not receive any printed asthma education materials. Most (66%) parents received verbal instructions on how to manage their child’s future asthma exacerbations. Of those, one-third of families were told to return to the ED. Parents were rarely advised to bring their child to their family doctor in the event of a future exacerbation. At 6 months, parents continued to use the ED services for asthma exacerbations in their children, despite reporting feeling confident in managing their child’s asthma.
Improvements are urgently needed in developing strategies to manage pediatric asthma exacerbations related to URTIs, communication with parents at discharge in acute care, and using alternate acute care services for parents who continue to rely on EDs for the initial care of mild asthma exacerbations.