Online support a breath of fresh air

May 13, 2013 by Bryan Alary
A pilot project by a UAlberta researcher helps kids with asthma and allergies talk about issues and feelings in a fun online setting.

A multi-site pilot project developed by University of Alberta researchers is providing a breath of fresh air for children with asthma and severe allergies by helping them interact with peers online and boosting their self-confidence.

with severe can be socially isolated and feel a sense of about not being able to participate in certain activities with other kids their age. The new pilot used the social network site Club Penguin and Citrix GoToMeeting to help children with asthma and allergies talk openly about issues and feelings in a fun setting.

"This type of intervention bridges some of the gaps of in a way that's fun and relevant to kids with asthma and allergies," said lead researcher Miriam Stewart, a professor in the Faculty of Nursing at the U of A. "It was designed based on the kids' own support needs and what they wanted in an intervention—and fun and enjoyment was a big part of it."

In the pilot, 27 children aged seven to 11 years participated in weekly online meetings with slightly older peer mentors. The meetings covered topics such as strategies for coping with asthma and allergies, role-playing and games to help deal with difficult situations, presentations by positive role models and, most important, having fun. Each session ended with kids playing on Club Penguin, a social network site where kids create penguin avatars that live in the Antarctic.

The study showed that children reported a sharp decrease in and an increased ability to tell people about their health and support needs. Children were more likely to talk openly about asthma and allergies and to use support-seeking coping such as reinforcing with friends the importance of -friendly foods at social activities.

"That's really important because that was a major challenge for them, seeking support," says Stewart, who has coped with her own severe asthma and allergies all her life. "This pilot helped increase their self-confidence and reduce the loneliness they felt."

Stewart is now working with Anaphylaxis Canada and the Asthma Society of Canada in a followup study, funded by Alberta Innovates - Health Solutions and AllerGen NCE, on creating a sustainable online program for children and youth with severe allergies and .

She and her interdisciplinary multi-site teams are also exploring ways to make these interventions more accessible for vulnerable populations, including Aboriginal children and from low-income families—projects funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and AllerGen NCE. It's the type of cross-disciplinary research that first attracted her to the U of A, she says.

"The ability to work with researchers from numerous disciplines has always appealed to me and was essential to completing this research. The U of A and the Faculty of Nursing have provided amazing opportunities for me and my work."

Stewart's and her colleagues' pilot research was published in the May issues of the Journal of Pediatric Nursing and Journal of Family Nursing.

Explore further: Protect your kids from pollen allergies: expert

Related Stories

Protect your kids from pollen allergies: expert

April 28, 2013
(HealthDay)—Many children suffer allergies at this time of year as trees and other plants start releasing pollens into the air. So parents need to monitor their youngsters for symptoms, an expert says.

Have asthma? You likely have an allergy as well

April 2, 2013
Asthma is becoming an epidemic in the United States. The number of Americans diagnosed with asthma grows annually, with 26 million currently affected. And according to a new study, nearly two-thirds or more of all asthmatics ...

1997 to 2011 saw increase in allergies among US children

May 3, 2013
(HealthDay)—For U.S. children aged younger than 18 years, the prevalence of allergies increased from 1997 to 2011, with age, race/ethnicity, and income all affecting the prevalence, according to a May data brief issued ...

Food allergies tied to impaired growth in kids

February 25, 2013
(HealthDay)—Food allergies appear to affect children's growth, a new study suggests.

Oral drops can give kids needle-free relief from asthma, allergies

May 6, 2013
Allergy shots are commonly used to treat children with severe environmental allergies and asthma, but under-the-tongue drops may offer yet another beneficial—and stick-free—option for pediatric allergy sufferers, according ...

Prebiotics: Do supplements in baby formula help prevent allergies?

March 27, 2013
Prebiotic supplements in infant formula may help to prevent eczema, according to a systematic review published in The Cochrane Library. However, the review highlights a lack of high quality evidence for the effects of prebiotics ...

Recommended for you

Despite benefits, half of parents against later school start times

August 18, 2017
Leading pediatrics and sleep associations agree: Teens shouldn't start school so early.

Doctors exploring how to prescribe income security

August 18, 2017
Physicians at St. Michael's Hospital are studying how full-time income support workers hired by health-care clinics can help vulnerable patients or those living in poverty improve their finances and their health.

Schoolchildren who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try tobacco

August 17, 2017
Vaping - or the use of e-cigarettes - is widely accepted as a safer option for people who are already smoking.

Federal snack program does not yield expected impacts, researchers find

August 17, 2017
A well-intentioned government regulation designed to offer healthier options in school vending machines has failed to instill better snacking habits in a sample of schools in Appalachian Virginia, according to a study by ...

In a nutshell: Walnuts activate brain region involved in appetite control

August 17, 2017
Packed with nutrients linked to better health, walnuts are also thought to discourage overeating by promoting feelings of fullness. Now, in a new brain imaging study, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) ...

Study shows cigarette makers shifted stance on nicotine patches, gum

August 17, 2017
The use of nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, inhalers or nasal sprays—together called "nicotine replacement therapy," or NRT—came into play in 1984 as prescription medicine, which when combined with counseling, helped ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.