Is This the Health Tracker of the Future?

Researchers are developing a new high-tech health monitoring material that could make keeping tabs on your vitals as easy as getting dressed.

by Lara DeSanto Health Writer

Move over, smart watches—there’s a new health tracking option coming to town.

Researchers at the University of Houston say there’s a new material that may be used to serve as an early warning system for illness or injury. What’s so exciting about that, you wonder? Well, the material is reportedly flexible enough that it can be woven into the fabric of clothing, but still capable of sensing bodily changes.

This “nanomaterial,” so-called because of its use of carbon nanotubes, can detect changes in body temperature—so researchers say it is a good option for use in wearable health monitor, according to the paper published in ACS Applied Nano Materials. That’s because changes in your temperature may be an early sign that something is off with your health.

"Your body can tell you something is wrong before it becomes obvious," paper author Seamus Curran, Ph.D., physics professor at the University of Houston, said in a news release. If body heat changes even slightly, it would trigger the electrical charge in the material to change, thus alerting the monitoring technology that something’s amiss. For example, they say it could potentially detect dehydration in a marathon runner or be an early sign of a pressure sore in someone in a nursing home. This could be especially helpful for people with chronic conditions who need more frequent monitoring of their health status.

Another bonus? This technology, which is still in development, should be cost-effective, researchers say, thanks to the small amount of material required for the technology to work.

Know Your Fever Facts

When body temperature rises abnormally higher than the average of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s called a fever. It’s a signal that your body is dealing with something out of the norm, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Fevers or increased body temperature can be a sign of many health issues, says the Mayo Clinic—the most obvious being viruses like the flu, but other causes include:

  • Bacterial infection

  • Heat exhaustion

  • Malignant tumors

  • Certain chronic autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis

  • Certain medications, like those used to treat seizures or high blood pressure

  • Certain vaccine, like immunizations for diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis or the pneumococcal vaccine

For most adults, fever isn’t cause for too much concern unless it reaches about 103 degrees Fahrenheit, per the Mayo Clinic. For babies and toddlers, even a slight temperature can be a sign of something serious. For infants under 60 days of age a fever can be a potential emergency.

Since most of us don’t yet have access to high-tech clothes like those the research team at University of Houston discusses, it’s important to know signs of a fever (since you might not be able to tell when your temp rises). Typical signs include the following, says the Mayo Clinic:

  • Chills and shivering

  • Sweating

  • Dehydration

  • Muscle aches

  • Headaches

  • Irritability

  • General weakness

  • Loss of appetite

Adults should seek medical attention if their fever is 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, or if their fever comes with any of these other symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic:

  • Severe headache

  • Mental confusion

  • Unusual skin rash, especially if it gets worse in a short period of time

  • Unusual sensitivity to bright light

  • Persistent vomiting

  • Trouble breathing

  • Chest pain

  • Stiff neck and pain when you bend your head forward

  • Seizures or convulsions

  • Abdominal pain

  • Pain when peeing

Lara DeSanto
Meet Our Writer
Lara DeSanto

Lara is a former digital editor for HealthCentral, covering Sexual Health, Digestive Health, Head and Neck Cancer, and Gynecologic Cancers. She continues to contribute to HealthCentral while she works towards her masters in marriage and family therapy and art therapy. In a past life, she worked as the patient education editor at the American College of OB-GYNs and as a news writer/editor at WTOP.com.