A HANDHELD breath sensor can warn someone with asthma that an attack is imminent, buying them time to take preventive medication, perhaps as much as 24 hours.
The breath sensor, developed by Siemens, measures telltale rise in levels of nitrogen monoxide. NO is produced naturally in the body, and can signal the beginnings of inflammation in the bronchial tubes. If unchecked, the inflammation will constrict the airways and trigger an asthma attack.
"Nitrogen monoxide (in the breath) indicates that the bronchial system is inflamed," says Siemens's Maximilian Fleischer, who helped develop the sensor. "This means there is danger of an upcoming asthma attack."
The sensor can detect levels of NO in the breath as low as 1 part per billion, but the higher the level the more severe the impending attack may be.