Your Fitbit could help you detect COVID-19 symptoms early, study suggests

Fitbit Inspire HR
Fitbit Inspire HR (Image credit: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Your smartwatch may be an important health tool during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • A new survey by Fitbit suggests that wearers of the company's health trackers may be able to catch COVID-19 early.
  • This is due to underlying changes in physiology that may not be immediately apparent to a casual observer but could be picked up by a health tracker.

Your Fitbit may be able to tell you if you have COVID-19 up to one day before symptoms start to present themselves, a new study suggests.

Writing on the Fitbit blog, Conor Heneghan, Director of Research, Algorithms at Fitbit, said:

Based on the findings of our study, we can detect nearly 50 percent of COVID-19 cases one day before participants reported the onset of symptoms with 70 percent specificity.This is important because people can transmit the virus before they realize they have symptoms or when they have no symptoms at all. If we can let people know they should get tested a day before symptoms begin, they can isolate and seek care sooner, helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The study also found out which symptoms were likely to lead to hospitalization (shortness of breath and vomiting), while COVID-19 patients who reported sore throat and a stomach ache were less likely to need a trip to the emergency room. They also noted that fatigue and body aches were the most common COVI-19 symptoms, while a high temperature presented itself in just over 50% of sufferers.

Naturally, as many fitness trackers share the same sensors, the possibility of early detection through tech has been explored with other brands of fitness trackers in the recent past. Speaking to Reuters in July about a similar study, Professor Michael Snyder of Stanford University School of Medicine. said:

When you get ill, even before you know it, your body starts changing, your heart rate goes up. We can tell when someone's getting ill before symptoms. That's super powerful. You can tell people to stay at home. Don't go out, infect other people.

Fitbit Charge 4

Fitbit Charge 4

The Fitbit Charge 4 has comprehensive sleep tracking, smartphone integration features, and most importantly for a smart band of any kind, long-lasting battery life. It's soon to be superseded by a new slate of products, but it's still worth a look at.

Michael Allison