Digital tools for asthma management
Asthma is a long-term (chronic) condition and it’s the most common long-term condition to affect children and young people. Regular checkups with healthcare professionals are necessary for chronic conditions, and in the case of asthma, there are several options of highly effective medicines.
Asthma medicines – such as preventer and reliever inhalers – allow most people with asthma to live active, healthy lives without their asthma getting in the way. For the medicines to work, it’s important that people take their medicine as prescribed and, in the case of inhalers, that their technique for taking the medicine gets the medicine to the lungs, where it can work.
Healthcare professionals are still the first point of call for advice on how to deal with a long-term condition. For the day-to-day management, however, patients can make use of several tools. Some can be low-tech and simple, for example, a note on the fridge door reminding to use the inhaler. Or you can link taking a regular inhaler to regular habits, like tooth brushing, by putting inhaler and toothbrush in the same place.
As might be expected in the digital age, the amount of digital support to manage asthma is increasing. Again, there are low-tech and high-tech versions, a simple option might be keeping a copy of an asthma action plan on your phone for a quick reference. Lots of resources are available though and the number is increasing, we introduce some options below.
Working with one of our partners, the Centre of the Cell, and an app developer, we developed the game ‘Asthma Dodge’ (for iOS and Android). Players learn what can trigger asthma in their environment – including pollen, cats, or stress. By using their inhaler appropriately and avoiding triggers, the aim is to get their player to reach the destination in the quickest time to move up levels.
Sometimes there is a lot of information to digest after a medical appointment, and it can be difficult to remember some of what the doctor or nurse advises, so you might want to look up some additional information.
To understand what happens in the lungs to cause asthma, Booster Shot Comics made a few different excellent videos – for adults and young people or a comic for younger children to understand what happens in their lungs and why it’s important to use inhalers as prescribed.
The medicine inside an inhaler also needs to get to the lungs when it’s used, which requires learning the correct technique. Again, YouTube videos can really help if you cannot remember everything the doctor, nurse, or pharmacist showed you. This video by YouTube’s Abraham the Pharmacist is comprehensive and covers technique and general care instructions.
For those looking for additional advice or information, Asthma UK does a great job of collating relevant information, campaigning for people with asthma, and reporting the latest news in asthma research.
For day to day management of asthma, the simplest digital support is in the form of alerts on your phone to use the inhaler, or a weather app to check if a high pollen count, humidity, or cold weather might affect your asthma.
More complex apps can help with keeping a record of symptoms, set up to alert your pharmacy that you need to pick up a new prescription, or with a message board to talk to other people with asthma for support. We are contributing to one of these comprehensive apps, the ‘Health Passport’, which is currently being tested and will be available to the public by the end of this year.