Yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration issued an alert to warn consumers about the inaccuracy of thermal imaging devices. Infrared thermometers have become an increasingly popular way of taking temperatures since the COVID-19 pandemic started, with many privately-owned businesses such as hair salons, airlines, schools, workplaces, and public venues using them as a way to monitor temperatures before allowing people into their establishments.

But are these thermometers accurate? According to the FDA, improper use of thermal imaging systems may lead to inaccurate temperature readings, which can present serious public health risks. If these thermometers are giving inaccurately-low readings, then people who are sick could infect others without even knowing it. In the same way, infrared thermometers could also give a falsely-high temperature reading, resulting in an individual not being able to continue with their plans because they were required to fall below a certain temperature threshold and according to the infrared thermometer, they did not.

The Washington Post also issued an article yesterday, further analyzing the FDA’s alert. According to Drew Harwell from the Washington Post, a lot of companies jumped into the infrared thermometer market this past year due to the coronavirus pandemic, with many having no experience or knowledge on manufacturing these devices prior to this year. These medical devices used to require testing, known as 510(k) clearance, that would test the safety and effectiveness of the product. This was an important process before the coronavirus epidemic happened, but because of supply and demand, the FDA had to lift the 510(k) clearance requirement rule in order to give consumers access to more thermometry options. The fact that these thermometers are no longer being tested before being put on the market for consumers to purchase could question their validity.

The FDA lists several requirements that need to be met in order to provide a more accurate reading, including using the device in the proper environment and/or location as external temperatures could affect the reading; the systems need to be set up correctly and calibrated regularly to ensure they are operating effectively; and the person handling the device must be properly trained on its setup, usage, cleaning and calibrating. If all of these steps are not followed correctly, consumers could suffer from inaccurate readings.

Although thermal imaging devices may seem like an easy and use-friendly option, these thermometers have proven their inability to provide consistent and accurate readings. Due to these inaccuracies, these thermometers should not be a trusted source when measuring a person’s body temperature. Instead, clinically-accurate thermometers should be used. All of Medical Indicators’ thermometers are accurate to ±0.2ºF or ±0.1ºC, which is the highest level of accuracy available on the market today. Visit our website to learn more about how Medical Indicators’ thermometers provide a safe, reliable and accurate temperature reading, each and every time they are used.