Mobile Apps Can Improve Asthma Control

Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease. Asthma attacks cause narrowing and inflammation of the airways, which leads to difficulty breathing, coughing, wheezing, and chest tightening. A severe asthma attack can be life-threatening and lead to worse symptoms, such as low blood pressure, slow heart rate, or even confusion.

In the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study, from 2016, it was estimated that asthma affects about 339.4 million people around the world.

There are different asthma types, such as occupational asthma, severe asthma, adult-onset asthma, seasonal asthma, and childhood asthma. Each type of asthma is triggered by different causes, just like stress, genetics, physical efforts, obesity, allergies, exposure to tobacco, air pollution, or even the menstrual cycle. There is no cure for this disease, but with the right treatment, it can be controlled.

To help tackle this problem and improve treatments, new technologies have been created. From air purifiers, that clean the air and improve breathing, to Hypoallergenic Beddings, that do not allow polluted particles to get to the bedding. Wearable medical devices, like wristbands, are also available. They control heart rate, oxygen in the blood, motion, and outside conditions to determine the risk of an asthma attack.

Asthma tracker applications are another technology that helps improve asthma treatments. Asthma apps have different functions that go from asthma emergency support or treatment advice to medication alerts. Some others show how the temperature and pollution in a specific area can affect your lungs and if there is a risk of asthma attack. Some apps are connected to a device attached to the inhaler. This device sends information to the apps, such as the number of times the inhaler was used and where. Apps allow you to store your data about the disease, like asthma symptoms and medication intake.

These apps enable patients to share data with their doctor. Others have the option to send asthma data to scientists or laboratories. This helps scientists get data about a broader spectrum of people and develop new and effective ways to track and control asthma.

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, conducted a study in 2019, which consisted in developing an app that created personalised treatments to monitor asthma. The app was connected to a spirometer which controlled the lung function. This way the app could track asthma symptoms and give correct treatment advice. Patients had access to a picture of the inhaler with usage instructions, and the appropriate medication dosage. Research leader, Bjorn Nordlund stated that the results showed this app improves asthma symptoms, more than traditional treatments.

Another study from 2019, conducted by researchers from the University of Utah, United States, showed that children who use asthma tracking apps went 60% less to the Emergency Room and missed school fewer days when compared with asthmatic children who were not app users.

Given our phone addiction and the good results of the studies, it seems like asthma apps can revolutionise asthma treatment by helping patients to control it.

References:

  1. What is asthma?, November 2018, MedicalNewsToday
  2. The Global Asthma Report 2018, Global Asthma Network
  3. ‘Asthma app’ to improve self-monitoring, September, 2019, Healthcare-in-europe
  4. Children who use asthma tracking app have better disease control and fewer hospital visits, May 2019, ScienceDaily
  5. Asthma and technological innovations for treating it, November 2018, TECHENGAGE