Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, infrared thermometers have become a popular way to take temperature screenings in high-volume areas. Many businesses, including restaurants, stores, movie theaters and even companies and their corporate office locations, use them as a way to test for a fever in hopes of limiting their exposure to COVID-19. While infrared thermometers may be easy to use, they have unfortunately proven to be wildly inaccurate. Johns Hopkins Medicine issued an article titled Physicians Say Non-Contact Infrared Thermometers Fall Short As COVID-19 Screeners, which explains why these thermometers cannot be used as a trusted source.
Infrared thermometers only measure a person’s skin temperature, rather than measuring core body temperature – which is the key indicator of an infection. External factors, including the weather, the temperature of a room, an individual’s recent physical activity and other environmental variables, will affect the accuracy of the thermometer and the readings they provide. Because these factors can affect the results when using infrared thermometers, it creates a range of possible temperatures leaving a large margin for error. In the study, Johns Hopkins Medicine explains that during the course of a fever infrared thermometers can give misleading readings, so they should not be used as a trusted source to accurately determine if someone does or does not have a temperature.
The report states that more than 46,000 travelers were screened in 2020 with non-contact infrared thermometers and only one person was identified as having COVID-19. In addition to that, approximately 766,000 travelers were screened during January 17th-September 13th, and only one person per 85,000 later tested positive for COVID-19. Additionally, 47 out of 278 people with symptoms similar to COVID-19 had a measured temperature meeting the CDC criteria for fever. They explain that this data shows that non-contact infrared thermometers fall short as a screening test for COVID-19.
Although infrared thermometers provide a convenient way to take someone else’s temperature, the many concerns about inaccurate readings are worrisome. These devices could not detect a person’s fever when they do in fact have one, resulting in that person potentially exposing others to their illness. Conversely, these devices can also report a temperature when the person doesn’t actually have one, leading to unnecessary worry, doctors’ visits and an abrupt change in plans.
Especially in light of recent events, it’s imperative that consumers are able to trust the products they use. Medical Indicators’ thermometers not only provide the most accurate temperature reading available on the market today, but their disposability means that once a temperature is taken, you simply throw it away along with all of the germs – and any worry over spreading an infection!