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Jean Paul Eekhout

Respiratory Development Group Manager, OMRON Healthcare Europe

Figures show that many parents of children with asthma are still failing to identify the most common symptom associated with a potential attack.

Wheezing, the most common symptom associated with asthma in children under five, can be a precursor of an asthma attack.

But recognising the continuous, coarse, whistling sound produced in the respiratory airways during breathing as a wheeze without proper clinical training is not always straightforward. This is especially worrisome for children in this age group, who are too young to speak or articulate what they’re feeling.

In addition, what parents and doctors mean by “wheezing” is often very different. This is problematic, since proper asthma management depends on accurate and early identification of a wheeze.

Asthmatic symptoms

Jean-Paul Eekhout, Respiratory Development Group Manager at OMRON Healthcare Europe, says: “Wheezing is one of the symptoms that children diagnosed with asthmatic symptoms will have as a warning for an upcoming exacerbation. What is happening is that the airways are contracting and this results in the whistling sound”.

By using medication that has been prescribed as part of the treatment plan, a child would receive the necessary support to relax the airways again and avoid having a serious asthma attack. However, most parents want to be certain their child is having an asthma attack before exposing them to particular medications and potential side effects. Unfortunately, this approach risks missing early action that could prevent attacks.

Wheezing, the most common symptom associated with asthma in children under five, can be a precursor of an asthma attack.

Addressing lack of clarity

Building on decades of expertise in technology for respiratory treatment, OMRON has worked closely with parents to gain an insight into their levels of confidence in detecting wheezing symptoms in their children. At least 60% of surveyed parents need some sort of reassurance when managing asthmatic symptoms in their children at home.

“In addition to consumers, we also collaborate with key respiratory experts to understand their own challenges when providing all the help they can to reduce harm in children,” says Eekhout. “Healthcare professionals are stating that there often is a misinterpretation of wheezing sounds as they are perceived by a doctor and the caregiver. That leads to confusion and potentially to administering the wrong medication or too much or too little”.

“If an asthma attack is looming, the earlier you are there, the faster you can respond and you can avoid it. But if no action is taken, by the time you will realise the severity of the situation, it is too late” he says.

Early detection

With the increasing burden of asthma as the bedrock for removing guesswork during an exacerbation, OMRON Healthcare developed WheezeScan, a new device designed for early detection of wheezing to alert parents or caregivers that an asthma episode may be imminent.

Created for use in children aged from four months to seven years, it is “essentially a digital stethoscope,” explains Eekhout.

“It has a very powerful microphone combined with noise cancellation circuitry that is placed on a child’s chest to tell the parent or caregiver whether the child is wheezing or not in 30 seconds,” he adds.

An algorithm has been trained to detect the wheeze “signature”, which is analysed and highlights if a wheeze is detected facilitating earlier intervention, or whether there is no wheeze.

Because asthma has a better prognosis when the symptoms are tackled earlier, OMRON expects that the WheezeScan will contribute to improve asthma management, reduce hospital admissions and achieve better patient care outcomes.

Providing support

“This device is also not about detecting asthma from a diagnostics point of view; this is a device that goes to parents or caregivers of children that have been diagnosed with asthma by their GP to provide support, enabling parents to follow the recommended treatment plan in the presence of a wheeze.”

Additionally, during the COVID-19 pandemic, patients may have missed seeing their doctor as often as required, meaning they may have required extra support from such a device.

Purchase the Omron WheezeScan

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