To assess parental perceptions and beliefs about asthma in children.
We invited 6000 children aged 3 to 15 years from different schools in Lebanon to participate in the study from September 2007 to May 2008. In the first phase, in order to determine the prevalence of asthma in children, parents of all participating children filled out a small questionnaire. In the second phase, only parents of children with asthma filled out a detailed questionnaire about their perceptions of asthma.
Phase I included parents of 4051 children, 574 (14%) of whom had asthma and were recruited to phase II. Out of these, 389 parents entered the final data analysis. Around 54% of parents believed that asthma was hereditary and 7% believed it was contagious. When asked about triggering factors, 51% stated virus infection, 75% dust, and 17% food. Sixty percent of children with asthma lived with someone who smoked. Sixty-seven percent of parents believed that herbs had a role in asthma treatment and only 49% received asthma education. There was a significant difference in education level (P = 0.01) between the parents who denied the label of asthma (79%) and those who accepted it (21%). Sixty-seven percent of parents preferred oral over inhaler treatment, 48% believed inhalers were addictive, 56% worried about inhalers’ side effects, and 76% worried about using inhaled corticosteroids. Significantly more parents from rural (53%) than from urban areas (38%) believed that inhalers were addictive (P = 0.004).
Parents of children with asthma had considerable misperceptions about the use of inhalers and the safety of inhaled corticosteroids. To improve asthma care in children, it is necessary to provide adequate education to parents.