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Your Fitbit could one day tell you when you're about to get sick

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Sick new use for wearables

Smart fitness bands like the Fitbit, Misfit or even Apple Watch might soon be able to help you schedule your next sick day at work -- days before you're actually feeling ill.

A new study by the Stanford University School of Medicine claims that the various measurements collected by consumer activity monitors can be used to detect things like the early onset of infection, allergic reactions and possibly even diabetes.

Michael Snyder
Michael Snyder, professor and chair of genetics at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Michael Snyder, professor and chair of genetics at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

2 billion health-tracking measurements

The idea behind the finding is pretty simple: Today's smartphone-connected wearables gather tons of stats on us. So Stanford gathered 60 participants, each wearing between one to eight of these fitness-tracking devices, and figured baseline (healthy/normal) readings for things like heart rate, skin temperature, and blood oxygen for each individual. Variations from theses baselines were recorded, with their correlations with the onset of illnesses noted.


It started with Lyme disease

Professor Michael Snyder, PhD, a researcher and participant in the wearable study, was wearing health-tracking devices on a long flight to Norway. When his heart rate and blood oxygen measurements, which are known to spike during plane travel, didn't return to normal after landing, he guessed something was wrong. Fever soon followed, and he was eventually diagnosed with Lyme disease.

“Wearables helped make the initial diagnosis,” Snyder was quoted in the release for the study.

Apple Watch - Health
Dr. Cameron Powell with Airstrip, talks about health monitor options on the Apple Watch during the Apple event at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

With Apple Watch, Apple has shown interest in the areas of health and fitness.

Early flu detection coming to your Fitbit?

Snyder says that today's consumer wearables are geared toward fitness, but they gather the right measurements to be used for health purposes -- and probably even health predictions.

The Stanford team believes algorithms can be designed for these devices to auto-read patterns in health measurements, meaning an anticipatory alert from wrist saying you're getting sick should be doable.

Got that, Fitbit and Apple?

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