Ever since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the market for infrared thermometers has been growing. Being able to scan the temperature of a large group of people without compromising on hygiene and accuracy, many public facilities have been making use of infrared thermometers to ensure that employees and visitors alike are not running a fever.
With the pandemic looking like it’s here to stay, at however big or small a capacity, the new normal encompasses a world where infrared thermometers are more prevalent than ever. As an initial screening system for detecting and separating people whose temperature go beyond a certain threshold, infrared thermometers can be said to be saving lives during these difficult times.
Types of Thermometers
Many of us are familiar with the ubiquitous oral thermometer, however, they are not practical for temperature taking on a large scale. Below are the common kinds of thermometers in use:
- Oral Thermometers: Produce the most accurate results but are unsuited for use on a large scale due to hygiene issues.
- Ear Thermometers: Results can be compromised by blockages in the ear. Similarly cannot be used on a public scale for hygiene reasons.
- Infrared Thermometers: As infrared thermometers are non-contact and deliver instant results, facilities looking to screen employees and visitors quickly and efficiently will benefit from the use of one.
The benefits of using infrared thermometers are numerous: the non-contact approach means that there is a reduced risk of spreading disease. Moreover, they are easy to use as well as to clean and disinfect when necessary.
How Do Infrared Thermometers Work?
Infrared thermometers make use of infrared radiation to determine the temperature of an object without making physical contact. Every human being has atoms moving within us, and the speed of this movement is directly related to our surface temperature. To put it simply, the higher our temperature, the faster the movement of these atoms, whose energy is emitted through infrared radiation.
Although we are not able to visualize this energy under normal circumstances, we can still sense it in the form of heat and it can become visible when an object gets too warm. This allows an infrared thermometer to pick up on unusually high temperatures and facilitates the separation and isolation of individuals with elevated temperatures.
Measuring Temperature with An Infrared Thermometer
Measuring temperature is quick and easy with an infrared thermometer. Depending on the specifications of the model you are using, the person whose temperature is being taken will be standing a fixed distance away from the thermometer. Point the thermometer so that it is perpendicular to their forehead, instructing the person to remain stationary. Always ensure that you are not touching the sensor part of the thermometer and that it is kept clean at all times.
One notable mention of an easy-to-use infrared thermometer is the LOOKEE® Breeze Infrared Forehead and Ear Thermometer which comes with a large front-facing LED display. Coming with the latest smart chip + AI algorithm, it helps prevent false reading and make measuring temperatures convenient and hassle-free.
The Effectiveness of Temperature Screening
While temperature screening can undoubtedly go a long way in detecting and refusing entry to individuals with feverish symptoms, it should not be used as the only means of identifying COVID-19 cases. Instead, it is meant to be used in conjunction with other screening methods. There are a few reasons for this:
- Some affected individuals may not show feverish symptoms
- Individuals suffering from an unrelated condition may show feverish symptoms and be mistakenly isolated
- Failure to use the thermometer in a proper way can result in misread temperatures
- External factors such as ambient temperature can affect readings
- … and more
In fact, it has been estimated that half of all COVID-19 cases may go undetected following a temperature screening. However, that does not mean that temperature screening should be discounted altogether as an initial screening process. As an accurate means of identifying individuals with feverish symptoms and isolating them from others, it has gone a long way in detecting a significant number of potential causes.
The Precedent for Using Infrared Thermometers
The COVID-19 pandemic may have shaken up our lives, but it is not the only mass pandemic to have occurred in living memory. Many of us will remember SARS that broke out in 2002 as well as H1N1 that lasted between 2009 to 2010. At that time, while infrared thermometers were being used for mass temperature screening, their benefits were not as widely known as they are now. Based on the data gathered from these preceding outbreaks, numerous studies have been conducted around the use of infrared thermometers in detecting feverish symptoms on a mass scale, particularly when it comes to crossing borders.
The results are promising: compared to self-reported health declarations, infrared thermometers were able to identify early-stage fevers at a higher rate. This is due to several reasons, which highlight the disadvantages of using self-reported declaration forms as a screening method:
- Individuals may not be able to interpret the questions or diagnose their own symptoms accurately.
- Some may truly be unaware that they are running a fever due to it being in an early stage or confusing symptoms for jet lag, amongst many other reasons.
- Willingness to report feverish symptoms can be disincentivized by travel delays, involuntary isolation and quarantine of contacts.
What Does This Mean for Us
By now, it’s apparent that even when the pandemic clears away for good, the way we live has been changed forever. We have all had to adapt to a new normal, which goes beyond temperature screening at venues and events. The FDA acknowledges that many facilities have started using infrared thermometers as a way of identifying individuals with feverish symptoms.
However, it also highlights that temperature screening alone is incapable of identifying 100% of infected cases due to certain limitations mentioned earlier. As an elevated temperature is one of the most easily identifiable symptoms of COVID-19, there is no doubt that temperature screening is saving lives to whatever extent it is possible.
That being said, we all need to do our part by sanitizing our hands often, keeping face coverings on where practicable and adhering to social distancing guidelines. These measures, in conjunction with temperature screening, are the most sensible ways of keeping COVID-19 at bay on an individual level.