Watch CBS News

High-Tech Inhaler Uses GPS, WiFi To Keep Allergy Diary

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Duffy Minges never leaves her home without her asthma inhaler.

"Anytime I went outside that was a given," she says. "I would notice that wow, it's… I feel not so good anymore, harder to breathe."

Like many asthma sufferers, Duffy didn't know what was triggering her attacks. So, the 42-year-old 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 sent to the doctor.

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

Right now, you and your doctor can follow your local pollen counts, and you can try to remember how much you used your inhaler.

"Patients do tend to underestimate how often they're using their inhaler," Dr. Michael Palumbo of Allergy & Clinical Immunology Associates points out.

Researchers are hoping this GPS and WiFi-linked inhaler will help them determine which areas are hot spots.

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

He is testing the device, which has been submitted to the FDA as safe and effective and ready to market.

As for drawbacks?

"There's always the 'Big Brother' concept," says Dr. Palumbo. "Someone can track where you are all the time."

After looking at data from Duffy's inhaler, doctors ordered more allergy tests to pinpoint her triggers.

Now she's on new medication.. and doesn't have to use her inhaler as much.

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

In studies from the device maker, researchers have found more than 70-percent of patients improved control of their asthma after three months of using the system.

More Health News
More Reports from Dr. Maria Simbra

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.