LEXINGTON (CBS) – It all starts with a pet fire breathing dragon.
The pet is part of a video game designed to help kids with asthma, one of the most common chronic illnesses among children.
Wellapets is one game Allison Wu’s mom actually encourages her to play. The app is teaching the Lexington 9-year-old how to handle her asthma.
“I thought it was a brilliant idea, honestly,” says Allison’s mom. She should know. Dr. Ann Wu is also a pediatrician who specializes in asthma care.
“The biggest problem is taking controller medication. And you have to remember to take those every day even when you’re feeling well and that’s really hard to do,” says Dr. Wu.
When playing ‘Wellapets’ kids must give their pet dragon that maintenance inhaler twice a day, just like Allison and kids like her do in real-life.
Dr. Wu is also advising the Boston company that developed ‘Wellapets’.
“We decided to use promising research that’s out there on games and health to make a product that kids love and that is also educational and beneficial for them,” says Alex Ryu, co-founder of ‘Wellapets’.
“It’s a very engaging way to overcome the stigma associated with chronic conditions and motivate that positive behavior change,” explains Annie Ryu, who developed the game with her brother.
The game also teaches kids to recognize symptoms and avoid asthma triggers like dust and smoke.
“Even if children played ‘Wellapets’ for even three months, I think what you learn from it is enough to carry farther into your life,” says Dr. Wu.
‘Wellapets’ should be available for Apple devices by the end of February for around $4.
If the asthma version is a success, the developers are looking at other games geared toward food allergies, diabetes, and childhood obesity.
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