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Texting’s a reliable health reminder

Updated: May 26, 2012 8:05AM

Q. I can’t get my 13-year-old son old to remember to take his asthma medication or use his inhaler like he should. What can I do?

A. That’s a million-dollar question — and one that frustrates moms and dads, docs and researchers: Almost half of kids (and adults, too) who need regular dosing of inhaled corticosteroids don’t take what they need 25 percent of the time or more.

The great news is: We’ve got answers! Turns out that most teens actually enjoy getting reminders about their asthma self-care if they’re delivered as digital taps on the shoulder — TCOY! (Take Care Of Yourself, if you didn’t know.) As Alicia Keys and Beyonce croon in “Put It in a Love Song,” “Just text me on my cell phone!”

One recent study found that 93 percent of teens who were getting text messages about their medication said it changed — for the better — how they handled their asthma. Automated “robo” calls from pharmacists and doctors with reminders about taking medications and other health-related tips also work better than anything we’ve used before. Many of these services deliver a patient-education text, and it turns out that kids like to get that, too.

But the very best way to improve your son’s asthma control is to help him make his own wake-up messages that he programs into his cell phone. (Encourage kids 15 and younger to program their iPod; cell phones aren’t great for the developing brain.) Your son can record the reminders, mix in music, set the alarm to deliver them and presto change-o!, you’ve got a kid who’s tuned in to his own asthma control. When kids control the timing and content of their own reminders, they feel independent — and that lets you relax.

Q. I’m supposed to have a blood test for my cholesterol, but I really hate needles. I hear there’s a saliva test for the same thing. Is that true?

A. You’re talking about the very latest innovation in monitoring your health, and one we can’t wait to see in widespread use. Keeping tabs on “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and other markers for heart disease, such as triglycerides, means you can keep them low enough to avoid all the heart-stopping, brain-dulling damage they can do. But while there’s a pharmaceutical company that has a patent on a saliva cholesterol test, it’s not yet generally available.

Saliva contains proteins, enzymes, hormones and DNA. That’s why the cholesterol spit-test won’t be the only one you’ll see in the next few years. One of the most exciting saliva tests in development is a reliable screening for the inflammation marker called C-reactive protein, or CRP, which can indicate heart disease. Eventually, many important health risk factors may be measured this way.

Because saliva testing is so easy, fast, safe and cost-effective, maybe the spittoon will make a comeback as a medical device!

King Features Syndicate

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