Smart watches

Smartwatches can detect COVID-19 symptoms before the wearer knows they’re infected

Credit: public domain CC0

A team of researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai found evidence to suggest that smartwatches can detect symptoms of COVID-19 before a person realizes they are infected. On their website, the Mount Sinai team describes testing 297 healthcare workers by looking at data from their Apple Watches.

One of the first signs of a COVID-19 infection is inflammation of infected areas of the body. And when inflammation begins, the body responds by slightly altering blood flow. This change in blood flow can be seen in slight changes in a person’s heartbeat, detectable through smartwatches like Apple’s. By noting a person’s heartbeat over long periods of time, a smartwatch can determine a normal baseline for the person wearing the watch. And when a sudden and prolonged change occurs, such as sustained heart rate variability, the device can detect that too. During the Mount Sinai test, volunteers were asked to wear the smartwatch full time and install a watch app that specifically looked for sustained changes in their heart rate. The researchers found that the watches were able to identify two-thirds of infected people on average seven days before the volunteers noticed symptoms.

CBS News recently looked at the Mount Sinai team’s findings and those of another Stanford University study, along with other companies looking to see if their smartwatches might work the same way. They found that for the most part the answer was yes, smartwatches can very often detect COVID-19 infection up to a week before symptoms appear. They further noted that engineers can create apps for smartwatches to alert the user, who could then self-quarantine until tested. And that, they further note, could very well slow the spread of the current pandemic and those that may arise in the future.

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More information: … Robert P. Hirten et al. Longitudinal physiological data from a wearable device identifies SARS-CoV-2 infection and symptoms and predicts diagnosis of COVID-19, medRxiv (2020). DOI: 10.1101/2020.11.06.20226803

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Quote: Smartwatches can detect symptoms of COVID-19 before the wearer knows they are infected (January 19, 2021) Retrieved February 10, 2022 from symptoms-covid-wearer-infected.html

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