Smart Pacifier Monitors Infant Health

A team of researchers at Washington State University developed a smart pacifier and conducted a study to see if it could assist in monitoring babies’ electrolytes in Newborn Intensive Care Units (NICUs). The pacifier could also keep track of sodium and potassium ion levels, which help notify caregivers of dehydration in babies, a concern in infants born prematurely or with health problems. Currently, doctors draw blood twice a day in order to check electrolyte levels in newborns. The smart pacifier would eliminate the need for these invasive blood draws. The team tested the smart pacifier on select infants in a hospital and found the results tantamount to data obtained from conventional blood draws. The researchers used a commercially available pacifier and designed a system to sample a baby’s saliva through microfluidic channels. The device does not require a pumping system because the channels naturally attract saliva when the pacifier is in the baby’s mouth. Equipped with sensors that measure sodium and potassium ion concentrations, the channels use Bluetooth to relay data to the caregiver. Next, the team intends to make components more recyclable and affordable. Following that step, the researchers will set up a larger test of the pacifier. Jong-Hoon Kim, a co-corresponding author of the study and an associate professor at the Washington State School of Engineering and Computer science, said drawing blood can be painful for infants and leaves gaps in information as it is done once in the morning and once in the evening.

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