Sweat in the Cockpit Leads to Military Health Information

Eccrinology, the study of sweat and other gland secretions, may sound like a gross job. However, sweat carries the same biomarkers as other bodily fluids and is the least invasive to collect. The military is learning to collect health data from perspiration to monitor pilots.

To collect sweat, a patch is strapped to the arm and data is streamed to a tablet or smartphone. Conditions, such as dehydration, stress, muscle cramping, and depression, will reveal themselves in the chemical markers of sweat. The downside is that sweat starts degrading immediately, complicating sampling efforts.

The U.S Air Force Research Lab issued a contract with Cincinnati-based Eccrine for five years of real-time monitoring of ground troops and pilots. Executives at the company include a former Navy SEAL and former Air Force pilot. Finding out what is going on in a soldier’s body can be accomplished without having to draw blood.  Preventing dehydration and heat stress among infantry with strenuous activity and harsh environments are very important.

The physiological performance of pilots can also be analyzed. There is little known about how high stress impacts pilots operating high-dollar military aircraft. Cortisol is a key stress marker that would also be a focus of Eccrine. Pilots will be among the first to wear sweat monitors for dehydration and cortisol in the next two to four years. Other substances that are water-soluble, such as viruses, metals, and toxins will also be detected in sweat.

Real-time monitoring will progress to other fields such as transporter companies, industrial workers, and sports teams. Companies that sell health and wellness trackers would increase their market for this new sweat technology. As this monitoring becomes more common, costs will drop and uses will increase. Eccrine has grand ambitions, which will require plenty of sweat to achieve success.

Bachman, Justin. “Why the Air Force Wants to See Pilots’ Sweat.” News. Bloomberg, 16 Sep 2016. Web. 17 Sep 2016.

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