Biomedical engineers at the Medical Devices Laboratory of the University of Cape Town (UCT) have designed a new asthma inhaler attachment sleeve that will make it easier for children and the elderly who have asthma to activate their asthma pumps.

The device, called the Easy Squeezy, fits over a standard inhaler and reduces the force required to activate the inhaler by approximately two thirds.

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. About 10% of adults and 20% of children suffer from asthma, and the country has the fourth highest asthma-related death toll in the world.

Although most deaths due to asthma can be prevented with proper treatment, many of the elderly and children who suffer from asthma are unable to activate their asthma pumps due to the force required to release the medicine. Those that are designed for easy use are often not affordable.

According to the engineers, Associate Professor Sudesh Sivarasu, Head of the Division of Asthma and Allergy at UCT, Associate Professor Michael Levin, Giancarlo Beukes and Gokul Nair, the Easy Squeezy has the potential to reduce the asthma morbidity 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 just can’t manage to get it right?” said Prof Levin.

According to Associate Prof Sivarasu, the Easy Squeezy is designed for asthma sufferers from as young as five years to those over 70 years of age – they have different needs but the device suits them both. “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,” said Associate Prof Sivarasu.

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 many children experience when using the pump because their favourite figurines can be attached to it.

Research Contracts and Innovation partnered with the innovation team at a very early stage and has facilitated the intellectual property protection and commercialisation of the technology.

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