When you get sick, your immune system has a lot of strategies it can deploy to help you heal. All of this action requires a lot of energy and usually shows up as signs of strain in your body that you can read through your body temperature, heart activity, respiration, and sleep or activity patterns.
If you’re concerned and feel like you’re getting sick, keep an eye out for these signs of strain, and remember to compare them to your normal baseline:
Increase in Body Temperature
As part of your immune system powering up to fight infection, your body usually raises an inflammatory response. Inflammation does exactly what it sounds like—“flame”—it heats your body up. Severe infections can even turn up the heat enough that your body generates a fever.
An individual’s body temperature typically changes by about 1 °C (1.8 °F) between its highest and lowest points each day. Anything outside of that range signals that something is challenging your body and preventing it from maintaining your ideal temperature range. Keep in mind that internal changes (e.g., a fever) or external changes (e.g., a warm bedroom) can both cause temperature changes.
Increase in Respiratory Rate
If a respiratory infection or cough is challenging your system, you may see an elevated rate in your Oura app. A typical respiratory rate for healthy adults is 12–20 breaths per minute. Keep in mind that hormone cycles can also impact your respiration, and illness may cause your rate to remain relatively high for some time after the actual symptoms have disappeared— letting you know your body is still recovering. Read more about what can impact respiration here.
Increase in Resting Heart Rate or Decrease in Heart Rate Variability
As your body fights an illness, it engages your sympathetic, fight-or-flight nervous system. This activity increases your resting heart rate and decreases your heart rate variability.
Changes in Sleep or Activity
If your body is prioritizing rest, it’s natural to spend more time in bed for your body to recover. You may engage in lower amounts of activity or notice that your body shows patterns of prioritizing deep sleep, which is the most physically restorative sleep stage.
How Are Users Leveraging Their Oura Data?
The Oura ring is not a medical device, and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, monitor, or prevent medical conditions or illnesses. That being said, many savvy users have used their data to tell stories—to each other to share their experiences and, sometimes, to their doctors to put data behind their symptoms.
The following are true stories taken from users who chose to share their experiences. We’ve changed their names to respect their privacy. Oura is working with numerous researchers who are seeking to use patterns like these to help empower individuals to own their own health.
Until then, keep an eye out for yourself and your loved ones. Sharing what you see might help others until science can catch up.
Jonas Saves Thanksgiving
Jonas was getting ready for the big family gathering at Thanksgiving: “Several other members of my family were sick with a cold, and I was not feeling fit. I have older parents and was worried I was going to get them sick. Then I woke up and saw my temperature spike…”
Jonas routinely checks his app in the morning and, this time, his Daily Body Temperature showed a spike above his normal. When he looked back, he saw it had been trending upward for a week. It immediately made him think, “I bet I’m getting a fever.”
Feeling unwell, and knowing his household was battling a cold, he decided it was time to take action.
“I went to [my doctor] – I don’t like antibiotics, but I felt I had to keep from spreading this to my parents. I didn’t yet feel too bad, but I knew from my temperature that something was coming. The doctor was initially skeptical—rightly—about not giving out antibiotics just as prophylactic. I showed him the temp spike, and he was convinced I was getting sick…I was being health conscious, and not just blindly demanding antibiotics.”
By showing his temperature spike, it helped the doctor understand why Jonas was worried and established trust. Jonas wasn’t just out for antibiotics—he was serious, thoughtful, and able to share what he’d been measuring, so the doctor could understand his perspective.
Jonas’s data armed him to make an informed decision, and left him confident that he’d taken the right steps.
“The next day my temp spiked again…That was the biggest spike of the whole year. But then the medicine kicked in, and my temperature looked healthy after a few days. I saw my family, and they didn’t get sick.”
Mary Fights The Flu
“I was throwing up and achy and feeling really terrible,” Mary recalls lightheartedly—knowing it’s firmly in the past.
As many do, Mary was traveling over the holidays, and somewhere between the jetlag, parties, and eggnog—an illness found its way into her busy schedule.
After looking at her Oura data, she felt it was severe enough to head to the doctor and get some blood tests. “Yes, it was the proper flu—I’m a verified case,” she quips.
So, what did Mary see in her data that initially alerted her, and what did she keep an eye on while in recovery? Her temperature, HRV, and respiration.
Validating what she thought she felt on her forehead, Mary spotted a temperature spike that started on Saturday and rolled through the next 5 days. “Temperature was the red flag, but that got me exploring what else I could see.”
When she looked at her HRV, she saw a large dip from Saturday-Monday, but, happily, it bounced back up by Tuesday—improving ahead of her temperature, and giving her a reassuring sign that she was well on the road to recovery.
Lastly, she watched her respiratory rate. The Flu is a respiratory virus, and she saw in her past data that her respiration was actually increasing before Saturday, and remained high as she slowly recovered.
Mary felt comforted by being able to track her recovery and see that her body was showing signs of gradually returning to her baseline.
Where Can I Find This Data?
From the home screen of your Oura app, tap on Readiness. Then tap one of the squares near the top to explore these trends: “Resting HR”, “Heart Rate Variability”, “Body Temperature”, and “Respiratory Rate.”
Which Patterns Should I Look For?
While looking at your data, start by asking yourself a few questions:
- When you start to feel sick, do you see an increase in your temperature?
- Do you notice other signs of stress in your body when your temperature changes (e.g., lower heart rate variability, higher heart rate, increased respiration rate)?
- Are there recovery routines that help your body rebound, like getting more sleep?
Your body is unique, and every person shows different patterns of strain and recovery. You can learn more about how your body has a natural temperature rhythm or how to interpret your temperature data in Oura.