Better Recognition of Exposure to Asthma Triggers in the Home Environment using Smartphones (BREATHES)

A tool for simply and affordably assessing levels of certain household allergens and asthma triggers.

The Need

Asthma is one of the most common chronic conditions among children in the United States and a major cause of childhood disability. Despite advances in medical treatment, many children have poor asthma control that results in disruptions in school attendance, extracurricular activities, exercise, and sleep. Thus, there exists a need to incorporate new approaches into treatment that align with family goals, such as to reduce medication use. Currently this is in some cases possible through the reduction of exposure to asthma triggers within households. Economically, the impact of asthma is attributable to billions in additional medical costs, in addition to thousands of deaths annually. Because of this, the detection of triggers and prevention of asthmatic episodes would simultaneously improve quality of life for asthmatics, but also result in cost savings to individuals, medical providers and insurers. Unfortunately, specific trigger identification within the home can be difficult. There is not yet a specific test for in-office or in-home clinician use to determine home exposure to environmental triggers, in contrast to the plethora of cutting-edge tests for medical diagnoses and many medication options. Such a test would allow clinicians to pinpoint problematic home exposures and focus finite resources on the most important exposure reductions. This could improve asthma control and reduce overall medication use, which could lead to reductions in adverse medical outcomes.

The Technology

Researchers at The Ohio State University, led by Dr. Karen Dannemiller, are developing a smartphone-based application that offers better detection of allergens in a home environment. The application, Better Recognition of Exposure to Asthma Triggers in the Home Environment using Smartphones (BREATHES), utilizes image processing algorithms and color badging techniques to detect and identify known triggers for asthma from household dust. Users will be able to collect dust with a swab, mix the sample with a solution and apply it to color-changing areas on an identification badge. The badge will be located next to a color calibration patch which can be compared in the application to calculate the illumination of the badge. It is this illumination that enables the detection of the color change that can be linked to a particular allergen. The application is expected to be able to detect cockroach, dust mite and mouse samples, with plans to include dog, cat, mold and other allergens further in development.

Commercial Applications

  • Allergen detection
  • DIY testing


  • Ease of use for end users
  • Low cost via a free mobile application and low cost, liquid testing solution.
  • Accurate results provided immediately to users
  • Portable/Mobile

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