UCT engineers design device to help asthma sufferers

Image Credit: UCT/NEWS

Cape Town – Biomedical engineers from the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Medical Devices Laboratory have designed a device that could potentially help asthma sufferers.

The device, called the Easy Squeezy, is an attachment sleeve that fits over a standard inhaler which would reduce the force required to activate the inhaler by approximately two thirds, making it more manageable for children and elderly asthma sufferers.

According to a media statement by UCT, many of the elderly and children who currently suffer from asthma are unable to activate their asthma pumps due to the force required to release the medicine, while more affordable options are often too expensive.

“We spend a lot of our time counselling patients about the importance of using their pumps every day with the best possible technique,” said Associate Professor Michael Levin, Head of the Division of Asthma and Allergy at UCT.

“And often we place blame on them when they don’t use them every day. But what if they are trying, but just can’t manage to get it right?” he asked.

According to Associate Prof Sivarasu, part of UCT’s Medical Devices Group, the Easy Squeezy was designed for asthma sufferers from as young as five years 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,” Sivarasu said.

Every year in South Africa asthma claims the lives of 58 500 people, and there are 3.9 million people who live with this disease, according to UCT. The country has the fourth highest asthma-related death toll in the world despite most deaths being preventable with proper treatment.

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

Associate Professor Sudesh Sivarasu, Associate Professor Michael Levin, Giancarlo Beukes and Gokul Nair are part of UCT’s Medical Devices Group, which develop affordable medical technologies.

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