UCT engineers design device to improve the quality of life of asthma sufferers

2nd May 2018 By: Simone Liedtke - Creamer Media Social Media Editor & Senior Writer

Local biomedical engineers at the Medical Devices Laboratory at the University of Cape Town (UCT) have designed a device they hope will alleviate the issues associated with asthma-suffers, especially the elderly and children, who are unable to activate their asthma pumps due to the force required to release the medicine.

The Easy Squeezy, a novel device, is an attachment sleeve that fits over a standard inhaler and which reduces the force required to activate the inhaler by about two-thirds, thereby making it manageable for most children and elderly asthma sufferers.

The aim of this venture, UCT notes, is to change the lives of those who cannot afford expensive medical technologies.

The annual morbidity rate in South Africa is about 1.5% among sufferers, and the Easy Squeezy has the potential to reduce this rate and enhance the quality of life of asthma sufferers by lessening the burden to individuals and families.

“We spend a lot of our time counselling patients about the importance of using their pumps every day with the best possible technique. And often, we place blame on them when they don’t use them every day. But what if they are trying, but can’t manage to get it right?” comments UCT asthma division head and associate professor Michael Levin.

He explains that watching patients, including his own daughter, having difficulty using their pumps inspired the thought of making it easier for patients to press their pumps.

According to associate professor Sudesh Sivarasu, the Easy Squeezy is designed for asthma sufferers from as young as five years, up to those over 70 years of age.

“We want to destigmatise the use of asthma pumps for children and have designed the sleeve to be similar to a Lego-toy collectable. It’s somewhat of a ‘build-your-own’ asthma pump,” he added.

The device ensures that both children and the elderly are able to use their pumps without assistance, indicates how many doses are left in a pump and helps to alleviate the stigma that children experience when using the pump through attaching their favourite figurines to it.

Associate professors Giancarlo Beukes and Gokul Nair are also part of UCT’s Medical Devices Group, which develops affordable medical technologies.