You may just say “most wouldn’t”, but take a look at the question below and your answer might change if you looked at it in a new context.

What parent would encourage their child to play more computer games?

From a combination of physiotherapy, exercise and medication, cystic fibrosis sufferers are frequently dependant on a strenuous and physical daily routine to help try and clear their airways.

And the Cystic Fibrosis Trust explains that the disease affects the internal organs, including the lungs and digestive system, by clogging them with “thick sticky mucus.” It affects around 9000 people in the UK and can bring down life expectancy down to an average of just 30 years.

From the statistics alone, clearly, it is a difficult illness to live with.

But now it seems as if a new option will be made available to children who suffer the inherited disease, and breathing exercises, as a form of physiotherapy, might begin to take on a very different course.

Recent headlines currently surrounding Alicia Day, building on American studies led by Dr Peter Bingham, are changing the way computer games are seen – and used – for sufferers in the UK.

While most of us might play computer games for fun, distraction or as a break from reality, Alicia’s father Dr David Day has been helping to create an interactive form of treatment for his daughter and potentially others. He explains to the BBC that “from feedback I’ve had, it seems as if all parents dread getting their children through […] so what we’re doing is absolutely vital.”

Straight out of a child’s colourful and unlimited imagination, one game follows a pirate and another is a flower bubble bursting challenge, but amongst the fun, they enable the user to carry out and enjoy their daily breathing exercises without as much monotony and strain.

And importantly, Alicia “loved it”, to the relief of Day, who explained that “it has taken all the pressure and worry out of trying to get her to do her physiotherapy.”

This is because unlike normal games, these have been designed to entertain children and clear lungs simultaneously through the breathing tube, inserted from the child’s lungs to the computer itself as a kind of virtual controller.

This “not only helps them stick to treatment regimes, but also significantly improves breathing performance” as Fast Company cites. Through encouraging the child to blow out at certain pressures to complete challenges in the game, such as popping cartoon flowers and ironically blowing mucus off characters, helps to shift the build-up of fluid in their lungs and digestive system, a welcome indicator of the success of any treatment, keyboard or no keyboard.

In response to the opening question, perhaps parents of child sufferers of cystic fibrosis might – and should – therefore start to encourage their child to play more computer games?


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