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Could Your Phone Control Your Asthma?

Posted in General Health 05 May, 2015

Is technology taking over? Many of us have been thinking "yes" for a while now. We can't do anything without our smartphones within arm's reach. There are massive cons that come with being so reliant on machinery that can break, crack or implode with little warning.

We've all fallen victim to the dying battery in the middle of an important phone call, no signal in the middle of nowhere and data limits in the middle of an extremely essential gossip session. Not to mention the price hikes, dodgy numbers and addictive apps taking up too much of our time.

Yes, our phones can be a pain in the backside, but there's no denying – we wouldn't change them for the world.

They bring us closer to Instagrams of burgers, videos of cats and, if you're really quick with the app trends, Anime versions of yourself dressed as a panda.

Yes yes, our phones are fun, but they have also been revolutionising the way we live, for the better. For example, Nike's running app, iPhone's Health app, breathing exercises, Fitness Pal, yoga, dieting – all mean we can reach our goals while on the move. And various apps have even been developed to help those with chronic health conditions manage their symptoms effectively.

Asthma is one example of such a condition. In the USA, researchers from Propeller Health are looking to monitor up to 2,000 candidates with asthma to gain a stronger understanding of what can trigger symptoms. Using a 'smart' inhaler that can be linked to each participant's phone via Bluetooth, the researchers can monitor the time or day and location in which the inhaler is used. The result? Possibly the most comprehensive research into treating asthma to date.

For those asthma patients without a smart inhaler, they can download an app and use this to log their treatments.

How exactly does it work?

These technologies allow doctors to not only see whether a patient is using their inhaler correctly, but also if their symptoms are triggered at certain times or in specific places.

For patients using preventer inhalers as well as relievers, this app reminds them to take their dose, leading to potential improvements in symptoms.

The app also works as a research tool. Patients are able to note exactly when and where symptoms occur, which can help them alter current treatment for the better and give a valuable insight into their triggers and the times at which they are most potent (for example, asthma is said to be more temperamental at night). The app is also able to monitor temperature and correlate this with the air pollution in that area.

Why is this important?

Whilst asthma is a common condition that is often manageable, the underlining triggers are still unpredictable. Yes, we know that pollen, air pollution, smoking and various other factor can trigger an attack, however we still can't recognize for certain which one causes the most trauma, and even if there are times of the day/month/year that are more dangerous than others.

By monitoring symptoms and logging them into a device we keep on our person, we can begin to create a bigger picture of how asthma affects the masses, and quite possibly develop more effective treatments. You never know, maybe it could be one step closer to finding a cure as well.

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