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Infectious Disease

Researchers developing app to diagnose ear infections

Ear infection app.jpg

My Fox Atlanta

It's the middle of the night, or the weekend, and you're headed to the emergency room with a child in tears over ear pain. As a mom or dad, you've probably been through it.

Now, there may soon be an app for that! Researchers in Atlanta are working on a way to turn your smart phone into an ear scope.

If you think about it, many parents have either an iPhone or an Android. They come with built in cameras and light to that take great pictures.  Researchers are using those cameras to help parents get their child's earache diagnosed without ever having to leave home!

Emery King, 3, used to be a frequent flyer in the doctor's office because every cold seemed to turn into an ear infection.

"When they're crying, they're tired. It might be midnight, you don't know why they're crying or what to do," said Emery's mother, Jen King.

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta pediatrician Dr. Wilbur Lam says he knows the earache drill.

"This waking up in the night, dragging them to the emergency room, and having the doctor tell them what they already know. That the child has an ear infection," said Lam.

Dr. Lam and researchers at Children's Healthcare, Georgia Tech, Emory, and California biomedical company have created an earache app which turns your smart phone  into a scope.

"That enables the camera, and the light source of the smart phone to function as an otoscope, an ear scope," explained Lam.

Parents would put the phone up to their child's ear, insert the flexible tip, and snap a picture, or record video. Then, they'd send it to their pediatrician.

"Theoretically, all you need to do is push a button.  And you have an image of the ear," said Lam.

Emory medical school student Kathryn Rappaport scoped about 70 kids using the phone. Dr. Lam says once you get the hang of it, it's easier than you'd think.
 
"These thing are actually not dangerous. I mean the likelihood of true perforation of the eardrum with this thing is actually very low.  It's more the parental fear that we're trying to address," Lam said.

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