Harvard Team Working on Wearable for Deadly Allergies #WearableWednesday


If you’ve ever worked as a camp counselor you know the drill, find out who is allergic to bee stings, nuts, shellfish and medications. Of course that is the tip of the iceberg since people can be allergic to anything. If the situation escalates to an emergency, an Epi-Pen may be needed, and even that isn’t always successful. That was the case for teen Abbie Benford of Massachusetts, who lost her life over an allergy. Thanks to help from the KeepSmilin4Abbie Foundation, researchers at Harvard will have the opportunity to work on a wearable that may save lives, according to the Boston Globe.

Among the project’s goals is developing sensors that could give a quicker warning that someone is suffering a severe attack, known as anaphylaxis. Researchers plan to evaluate patches, strapped-on gadgets, or even implantable devices that could monitor the blood or other signals from the body.

Apparently the problem is not just a physical issue according to John Osborne, an institute engineer.

“One thing that people do is they downplay it—denial is a coping mechanism,” Osborne said. “They try to pretend it’s not happening, and sometimes they’ll just try to take a Benadryl and sit down and ride through it, and that’s dangerous.”

Imagine that a few seconds could make a difference in someone’s life. It is often the human reaction that is slow, and I’m sure this is a great detail to apply to many life threatening situations. In fact, there is a popular series of case studies showing how human judgement is often the cause multiple times in situations like airline disasters and operating room errors. People are quick to blame technology, but really we are often the problem. Some researchers are already taking this to heart and we are seeing smartwatches for epilepsy and other devices looking at brain activity. It isn’t just that we can’t respond quickly, but it’s also that we may be in a state where we are unaware or unable to respond. So, lot’s of good work to be done here. If you find yourself interested in biometrics, you should check out our learning guide on Displaying Your Pulse Rate with NeoPixels. This is a fun project to do with family members and really brings body and tech together. It’s a small step in understanding how electronics can benefit the medical world and our own health.


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