One of the main areas that we focus on in our research is finding better ways of measuring breathing function. The types of tests that are often done in hospital need people to be able to understand quite complicated instructions and then do things like take a really big breath and blow hard into a machine. These types of tests tell us how much air people can move in and out of their lungs and how quickly, and can be really useful in working out what type of breathing problem people have, how bad it is and what type of medicine they need. Until children are about five years old, they can’t usually understand how to do the tests and so it’s much more difficult to work out what’s happening in young children’s lungs and how we can treat any problems. One area of research that Vicky is working on is to try and find breathing tests that are suitable for young children.
When you have a problem with your lungs, your breathing muscles have to work harder to move the air into your lungs. We can measure how hard the breathing muscles are having to work by placing stickers on the front of the chest. These stickers pick up the electrical messages that the brain sends to the muscles to make them work – the harder the muscles are working, the more electricity the brain sends to the muscles. We call this measurement ‘electromyography’, or EMG for short. We are interested in using EMG to help decide on the best treatment for young children with asthma and wheezy breathing. We have a survey that we would like parents of children who have had wheeze to complete, so that we can make sure we are planning our research in the right way to help these children. If you would like to take part, or know someone who might, you can find the survey here.