Medicines and the maintenance of ordinariness in the household management of childhood asthma



This paper applies and extends the ‘adaption’ perspective on chronic illness by arguing that, in the case of moderate child-hood asthma, an important aspect of the process may be found in the ways in which children and parents construct a sense of their ordinariness. It is suggested that medicines may play a role in this process. Reporting an intensive and detailed qualitative study of the management strategies of nine English families, it is shown that household members did not generally regard asthma as a major problem. Regular medication, usually in the form of inhaled drugs, was their main response. Few other strategies were followed and little attention was paid to the non-medicinal preventive actions recommended in asthma management guidelines and educational material. Parents’ and children’s accounts suggest that they were involved not only in managing a disease but also in maintaining a sense of their own ordinariness. Paradoxically, medicines, especially inhalers, were the main resource for accomplishing this goal because they supported the ordinariness of the child and the family far more readily than other preventive measures.