Researchers have developed a handheld sensor device that can detect impending asthma attacks hours in advance, potentially allowing patients to take preventive measures.

The Siemens device, which is the size of a mobile-phone, works by analysing the patient’s breath and measuring the amount of nitrogen monoxide.

High levels of nitrogen monoxide indicate that the asthma patient’s air passages are about to become inflamed.

The prototype device uses a sensor which generates a voltage based on the nitrogen monoxide levels, and on the basis of this value, the patient can decide the amount of anti-inflammatory medicine to take.

According to researchers, the system can give patients vital time to take anti-inflammatory medications and prevent serious attacks which can lead to hospitalisation.