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The tech to get through this time of COVID-19

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FILE - Tom Wilson gets his temperature checked by Tommy Nez before going to work for Delta at the Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City during the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday, April 15, 2020.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

These gadgets can help us all as we try to prevent infections, monitor symptoms and broaden our knowledge of the coronavirus.

We are definitely living in the new normal now, wearing masks and social distancing everywhere we go. Whether you’re concerned about contracting COVID-19 or trying to manage your health after a positive test, technology can help.

These days, a temperature check precedes getting a pedicure or showing up for a high school sports practice. Since a fever is one of the most common symptoms for COVID-19, health departments across the country are making it mandatory for people to get temperature readings for many activities. 

A person’s average body temperature can differ depending on height, weight, age and gender. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers a person to have a fever if their temperature reads 100.4° F or higher. 

It’s time to invest in a good thermometer. Unless you’re tracking the temperature of a newborn (for whom the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a regular digital thermometer), an infrared no-touch option is your best bet. These thermometers read the heat waves that run just below the skin on your forehead or the energy radiating from the eardrum.

There are a few reasons these are superior to thermometers you place in the mouth, under the armpit or rectum. Eating or drinking can mess with a temperature reading from a thermometer placed in the mouth and many kids (and adults) can’t seem to keep their mouths closed long enough for the thermometer to get an accurate measurement.

The same wiggle worm problems apply when it comes to placing a thermometer under the armpit. And do I even have to explain why someone might not want their temperature taken rectally?

If you want an easy way to track your temperature, consider getting a smart infrared thermometer. The Kinsa Smart Ear thermometer reads a temperature within 1 second and is LED backlit for easy readability in the dark. The thermometer connects with an app that can keep a history of readings, give next steps if someone is running a fever and can even connect users with a health care provider. The iHealth Thermometer is for the forehead and doesn’t have an annoying beep, but vibrates when the reading is ready.

Another symptom of the coronavirus that can be harder to self-assess is shortness of breath. Pulse oximeters clip to your finger and measure oxygen saturation. That information could come in handy, but you may not need a pulse oximeter unless you have other symptoms like fever and a cough, according to Dr. Denyse Lutchmansingh, a Yale Medicine pulmonologist.

“We have COVID-19 patients who we are monitoring at home,” she explained, “and one of the deciding factors for bringing them into the hospital is their oxygen level.”

Dr. Lutchmansingh made clear that neither wearable exercise trackers nor phone apps are the best option for checking oxygen levels. 

Also, be aware that pulse oximeters for home use are not as accurate as those used by medical professionals, according to Consumer Reports.

While wearables may not be the best option to track oxygen levels, they may still be very useful for providing data to those researching the novel coronavirus.

The Washington Post reports several research institutions are using data from subjects wearing gadgets like Fitbits and Apple Watches to see if they can predict the onset of COVID-19. But a lesser-known device could be the key. The Oura is a lightweight ring that measures heart rate and temperature changes. The connected app gives a detailed report each morning about activity, sleep and readiness for the day. 

The University of California at San Francisco is doing research on more than 2,000 health care workers who are wearing the $300 wireless device. Researchers hope to use the data to develop an algorithm that can predict the onset of COVID-19. If you already own an Oura, the company is allowing all users to join the UCSF study.

One Oura user told The Washington Post that one day his daily readiness score was well below his normal. The app detected a body temperature increase, so he decided to go get a COVID-19 test. He tested positive. His experience, in part, inspired the UCSF study.

It can be hard to know for sure whether we have symptoms of the coronavirus when we only rely on how we feel. But technology and good hard data can help us and medical professionals.