Health Team

High-tech inhaler tracks asthma locations, triggers

Posted April 11, 2013 6:09 p.m. EDT
Updated April 11, 2013 7:33 p.m. EDT

A new cutting-edge inhaler for asthma sufferers is helping doctors pin down a patient's location and possible allergy triggers.

Duffy Minges is one of 25 million adults and 8 million children in the U.S. who suffer from the chronic disease. She never leaves home with her asthma inhaler.

"Anytime I went outside, that was a given," she said. "I would notice that 'Wow, I feel not so good anymore ... (It's) harder to breathe."

Minges said she didn't know what was triggering her attacks, so she enrolled in a clinical trial that's testing a new high-tech inhaler. 

A wireless sensor sits on top of a regular inhaler. Anytime a patient takes a puff, maps show when and where the inhaler was used and records how much medication was used. That information is then sent to the doctor.

"With the device, essentially, the sensor becomes your diary electronically," said Dr. Rajan Merchant of Woodland Healthcare.

Researchers hope the inhaler will help them determine which areas are hot spots.

"It helps us isolate where they may be having problems," said Merchant.

After looking at Minges' inhaler, doctors ordered more allergy tests to pinpoint her triggers. Now, she's on new medication, doesn't have to use her inhaler as much and knows two of her biggest triggers – olive trees and the bermuda grass on her lawn.

"Now I can breathe," she said. "I'm not as exhausted anymore."