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This brilliant iPhone trick might help you fight the coronavirus infection

Published Mar 16th, 2020 6:42PM EDT
Coronavirus Update
Image: Zach Epstein, BGR

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  • The COVID-19 infection lacks unique symptoms. Fever, coughing, and shortness of breath might apply to the flu and other medical conditions as well.
  • But body temperature can and should be measured with regularity during the outbreak, especially if you’ve come in contact with a confirmed coronavirus case.
  • The Health app can help you log fever readings with high accuracy, and there’s a trick to make it even more comfortable to use.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

It may have seemed like a China-only problem a month ago, but the coronavirus threat feels more real than ever to the rest of us now. The virus’s ability to kill its host isn’t the scariest thing about COVID-19. Many of us will get it in the coming weeks and months, but most of us might not even notice it. What’s scary is the virus’s ability to move freely in a community with great speed. A young, healthy, coronavirus-positive person could infect many others, putting the elderly and those people who suffer from pre-existing conditions at risk. That’s who the virus kills, and that’s why social distancing and proper hygiene are of utmost importance right now.

That’s because this nasty virus doesn’t develop easily-identifiable symptoms to make diagnosis simply. Only a test result will confirm that your sudden cough, fever, and shortness of breath are signs of a COVID-19 infection. Considering those symptoms, there’s one other thing you should consider doing while you’re isolating yourself from other people which could prove to be incredibly handy for treating a future infection and preventing additional outbreaks that may occur in the coming months. And all you need to do it is your iPhone, as well as a clever trick that makes it at all a breeze.

Out of the three symptoms above, only one can be measured accurately using household items. That’s temperature, and it’s something that you should start measuring each day, even if you don’t feel like anything’s wrong with you. Fever is a common symptom for the flu as well as COVID-19, and having accurate readings during your quarantine is a good idea. Checking the temperature of your children and advising your parents to do the same is also advised. And that’s where the iPhone can really help.

The Health app is a tremendous resource that can help you track all sorts of health data, whether it’s activity data or vitals, temperature included. If you’re already familiar with the app, then you know how to find it and log your temperature readings. If not, open the Health app, go to Browse, hit Vitals, and look for Body Temperature — an alternative is to use the search bar to find the temperature setting. Tap on that, and register your readings. You should consider adding it to favorites by starring it, so it shows up in your Summary section.

If that sounds like too much work, then there’s an easier, smarter way to do it, and it’s built into the iPhone:

You can create a shortcut with the Shortcuts app to use Siri to log your temperature. I started monitoring my temperature a couple of days ago and plan on doing it for some time to come, but I hadn’t logged any readings. My memory will eventually fail me, though, the longer the pandemic lasts. So going forward, I’ll definitely use the “Hey Siri” shortcut above to input all of my readings. I measure my temperature in the morning and before going to sleep. You can take readings as many times you want during the day, but you shouldn’t go overboard unless you’re actually getting a fever — panic, of course, is one other thing that needs to be mitigated during the outbreak.

If you’re already using a smart thermometer, chances are it can sync with the Health app to record the readings. But if you’re not, then you should use the shortcut above and teach every iPhone user in your family to take advantage of it. You can use Android to monitor your temperature readings, of course, and any other smart device. A piece of paper will do too. But this Shortcuts trick only applies to iPhone and iPad.

You might think it’s not important to log your temperature if you’re not feeling flu-like symptoms, but technology is here to help, and we should all take advantage of it. It might come in handy when we eventually come down with a coronavirus infection, as we might be able to tell doctors when we first noticed our temperature rising. This, in turn, could help us determine where we might have gotten the virus, and who we might have passed it on to. It’s a great tool to help you travel back in time, and could help epidemiologists further limit the spread of the virus.

Not to mention that such data could always be used in future COVID-19 studies. The better we know the enemy, the better we can fight it. Fever onset, as well as readings before and after, could be relevant for future studies. Sadly, there’s no objective way of measuring cough or shortness of breath, but checking your temperature might prove to be just as useful as washing your hands regularly or staying in isolation for as long as possible.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.