Asthma can be difficult to deal with at any age, but it can be especially challenging for young children trying to grasp how the diagnosis translates into daily life.
Nikita Virani, Co-Founder and CEO of LifeGuard Games, Inc., has risen to the challenge by creating the Wellapets app. “Wellapets focuses on teaching and motivating kids around the 3 educational objectives of correct asthma management, as described by our pediatrician advisor: 1) Correct inhaler technique and timing 2) Trigger avoidance and 3) Symptom recognition.”
Sounds great in concept, but why educate with a game? According to the Wellapets website, “In studies involving kids ages 6-11, studies have shown that educational games can help kids understand their health and treatment, feel confident about managing their health, and stay well. In these studies, kids more often took their medication when they were supposed to and had as many as 70% fewer flare-ups.”
My son was diagnosed with asthma almost ten years ago and is still battling it today. So rather than playing the game myself as an adult, I thought it might be more appropriate to have my ten-year-old review it since it is for his intended age group.
I looked on as he played and will admit that at first, I was not sure what to do. Sadly, I believe that is a personal issue more than an app issue. My son dove into the game and immediately understood what to do with the help of pop-up directions. I may or may not have dragged out the iPad after he went to bed so that I could do a little catching up.
In this app, the player helps his Wellapet (ours looked like a baby dragon) conquer his asthma by administering a virtual inhaler (great for inhaler demonstration), practices how to take care of their Wellapet (great for learning proper nutrition and other ways to care for the body), and learns how to create and use an asthma action plan. Each of these concepts are achieved through a series of mini-games.
According to Virani, “The app uses virtual pets to convey health concepts and engage kids and provide a relatable character that shares kids’ health conditions, thereby alleviating the stigma that many kids experience. Finally, Wellapets also incorporates a soft limit on screen time while still encouraging regular play, by only refreshing missions twice per day, corresponding to when kids should be taking their maintenance inhaler.”
I have to say, thinking back on the days when my son was younger, I think the concept of timing missions so that they coincide with treatments is pure genius. If a young child is going to have to do his inhaler, maybe he can help give his Wellapet the inhaler at the same time.
Although currently, Wellapets features the asthma app only, in subsequent releases, it will feature apps for food allergy, as well as other conditions. Existing apps will be updated with fresh new content to help keep children engaged.
Bottom Line: I absolutely recommend this game for children who have asthma! It is a positive way to reinforce the ABCs of asthma treatment in a fun, non-threatening way. As a parent, I wish I’d had access to something like this when my son was diagnosed because it can be just as informative and educational for parents new to asthma as it can be for children.
Thank you, Nikita Virani and LifeGuard Games, Inc., for making it fun for parents and children to learn how to manage asthma. I can’t wait to see the food allergy app!