Using a musical app to help children with asthma

Posted on Monday 31st October 2022

An exciting new research study at Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals aims to determine whether a musical device app can help children with asthma.

Led by Professor Sejal Saglani, consultant in paediatric respiratory medicine, and Charlotte Wells, specialist paediatric respiratory physiotherapist, the research study will determine whether the new musical device can improve how children with asthma engage with breathing exercises.

In the UK, asthma is the most common chronic lung disease in children with approximately 1 in 11 affected. The UK also has one of the highest rate of childhood deaths associated with acute asthma attacks in Europe and has high rates of admissions and readmissions for attacks in children.

Poorly controlled asthma in children can lead to increased use of oral corticosteroids, higher rates of absence from school, reduced participation in sports, poorer quality-of-life and increased levels of anxiety.

Current care and it’s challenges

The existing interventions for managing asthma in children include retraining children on their breathing pattern and airway clearance breathing techniques, both of which are carried out by physiotherapists.

However, the challenge with carrying out these interventions in children is the difficulty in engaging children with the interventions. Some children find the breathing exercises too challenging, or don’t understand what they are being asked to do.

The potential solution

The research team will be working with a digital music device known as ‘Tutti Toot Trumpet’ (TTT) which uses musical games to measure different types of breathing tests looking at breathing rate, depth, pattern and quality, all whilst recording analytic data to an app. The device is designed to be both fun and give feedback so children know when they are doing the correct technique

The team will investigate whether the TTT device improves engagement of children with asthma doing breathing exercises. They will do this by monitoring whether children carry out their exercises (adherence) and how effectively they are able to correct their breathing techniques whilst practising at home.

This will be compared to standard care (no TTT device) where children will receive their usual physiotherapy interventions.

On receiving the award, Charlotte Wells said:

“I am really excited to work with TTT to develop a fun, interactive way to both monitor and support young children with asthma and dysfunctional breathing patterns. Young children are not often included in the development of new interventions so this will be a great opportunity to create something specifically for them to support their asthma management and physiotherapy interventions at home.”

The research is funded by the by the National Institute for Health Research through their Invention for Innovation programme, and will be conducted in collaboration with Imperial College London and Tutti Toot Ltd.