(HealthDay News) — Few people know how to use epinephrine injectors and asthma inhalers as directed, according to a new study published in the January issue of the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Aasia Ghazi, MD, of the Allergy and Asthma Specialists of Dallas, and colleagues recruited 102 patients prescribed epinephrine and 44 prescribed asthma inhalers for the study. Eleven percent of those prescribed epinephrine had used the device before. Eighty percent of those with asthma reported having used a metered-dose inhaler or a spacer before. The study volunteers demonstrated how to use a device to the researchers.

The researchers found that just 16% knew the correct way to use an epinephrine injector for someone with a life-threatening allergy. And only 7% knew how to use an asthma inhaler as directed. Of the 93% who misused asthma inhalers or spacers, 63% missed three or more steps. The most common mistake was not exhaling before depressing the canister to inhale the medication. Of the 84% who misused the epinephrine, more than half missed three or more steps involved in the correct use of the device. The most common error was not leaving the device in place for the recommended period of time.

Time appeared to be a significant factor in patients’ memories. For those prescribed epinephrine injectors within a year, 10% had perfect use. If they had the device for one to five years, just 5% had perfect use. If someone had been given the device five years prior, perfect use dropped to just 1%.

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