7 apps that can help those living with asthma

The smartphone app boom has touched virtually every aspect of daily life, from finance and banking to shopping and dating, and healthcare is no exception. Indeed, there are now myriad apps designed to help users stay healthy - think platforms that deal with nutrition and exercise - as well as manage a whole range of illnesses, including chronic conditions such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and stroke. One common medical condition that is also dealt with in a number of smartphone apps is asthma. This article will examine some of the best apps for those living with this illness.

A closer look at asthma
As detailed by the Mayo Clinic, asthma is a condition that adversely impacts breathing. It is caused when the airways become swollen and mucus accumulates. This occurs when the airways themselves narrow. The combination of restricted, swollen and mucus-filled airways produces symptoms such as difficulty breathing, excessive coughing and wheezing. Asthma often occurs in "attacks" wherein symptoms flare up and patients find themselves facing trouble with breathing. The source noted that in severe cases an asthma attack can be fatal. In terms of the impact on daily life, some individuals have such mild asthma that it doesn't make a notable differences to quality of life, whereas in extreme cases the illness can be debilitating. 

Researchers recognize that asthma can be triggered in patients by a range of things, although scientists are still unsure why the condition develops. Common triggers, as detailed by the Mayo Clinic, include polluted air, cold weather, pollen, mold and various other allergens, exercise and specific types of food. Certain kinds of medications can also trigger asthma attacks, including naproxen and ibuprofen. Additionally, mental health can play a role in the development of asthma symptoms, with emotional stress and other strong feels being recognized triggers for the condition. There are a range of factors, lifestyle and otherwise, that can increase an individual's risk for developing asthma. Examples include smoking tobacco, being overweight and having a family history of the illness.

In terms of treatment, patients tend to take medications for long-terms management and inhalers, which can relieve symptoms in the short-term, such as during an asthma attack. The medical term for inhalers, according to the CDC, is short-acting beta agnostics.

Asthma, unfortunately, cannot be cured. According to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of people with the condition across the United States is actually increasing every year, although researchers are unsure of why this is the case. It is estimated that around 25 million Americans live with asthma, which translates to roughly 1 in every 12 individuals. 

Apps that can make a positive difference
As explained, while asthma can be managed with a range of medications, there are now also a number of smartphone applications that can help support patients. Here is a closer look at seven of these impactful tools:

1. Buster Baxter: Lung Defender
Developed by PBS Kids, this app places beloved children's show "Arthur" character Buster Baxter at the center of the action, Medical Monitor reported. The purpose of the platform is to teach children all about asthma and how to recognize common triggers. The app has games as well as other educational materials and is an effective way to help young kids better understand the complexities of living with asthma. 

2. Asthma Buddy
This free app, compatible with both iPhone and Android, is a comprehensive tool designed to help those with asthma in a number of ways, Everyday Health explained. Features of this platform, which was designed by the National Asthma Council Australia, include educational resources, instructional videos, a symptom tracker and even a reminder system to encourage daily medication adherence.

3. How to Use Inhalers
As detailed by Medical Monitor, it is common for new asthma patients to have difficulty learning how to use their inhalers. This is problematic because, if used incorrectly, the benefits of using the medication can diminish. This is where How to Use Inhalers can help. The app has detailed instructions for proper use of a range of inhalers, with prominent features of the platform including videos with instructions as well as directives in text format. The app is free to download and is available for the iPhone. 

4. AsthmaSense
This app is helpful as it keeps a tab on a user's asthma symptoms, Medical Monitor explained. This is impactful or both patients and physicians, as understanding the kinds of conditions under which asthma attacks occur can empower users to take more effective preventative strategies. Asthma Sense has a range of features, although it lacks educational resources. Examples of features include push reminders for medication adherence and a symptom diary. The app can also be synched with the AsthmaSense Cloud, which is a secure place to store the data the platform collects.

5. Propeller Health
As reported by Live Science, an organization named Propeller Health has found a way for smartphones and inhalers to sync up, which produces a range of benefits. Known as "smart inhalers," these tools communicate with smartphones via Bluetooth. This in turn can feed valuable data to physicians, giving them insight into a user's triggers, as well as whether or not the inhaler is being used properly. Everyday Health, which also reported on Propeller Health, explained how this platform can be potentially life-saving, as it is able to send emergency notifications to primary care teams during severe asthma attacks or when symptoms worsen throughout the day. The platform is available for both Android and iPhone.

6. iAsthma in Control
Another app designed with children in mind, iAsthma in Control is primarily an educational resource, designed to empower young people to manage their asthma symptoms independently, Medical Monitor reported. The primary features of this app include push reminders to take medication, as well as check lists to ensure that children remember crucial items such as their medications and inhalers. The source noted that iAsthma in Control can also be used by parents, physicians and teachers, who can collaborate to ensure that children manager their asthma properly and stay healthy. 

7. asthmaTrack
Another platform ideal for those looking to monitor their symptoms more closely, asthmaTrack has a feature that creates graphs and charts, Everyday Health stated. The graphs are built using user entered data, pertaining to things such as medication adherence and daily symptoms. The graphs then provide a clearer picture about a user's condition. This is helpful as the graphs can be shared with primary care providers, who can then tailor things such as medication dosages and overall treatment plans. The app is available for the iPhone and has a fee of $2 to download. 

Kevin McCarthy's picture

Kevin McCarthy

Industry News Editor

An avid traveler and news junkie, Kevin covers a range of topics from healthcare technology to policy and regulations. As a former journalism student, he enjoys finding stories relevant to small practices and is passionate about keeping them informed. Before joining NueMD, Kevin worked for Turner Broadcasting as a Programming Intern where he conducted legal research and contributed to editorial content development. He received his bachelor's degree in Communication from Kennesaw State University and currently serves as the Industry News Editor at NueMD.

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