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Are Infrared Thermometers Accurate?

The short answer from a family medicine specialist

Woman having her temperature taken with infrared thermometer

Q: I’ve had my temperature checked with a hand-held thermometer for work or when entering a building during coronavirus, but is it actually accurate in detecting a fever?

A: With the surge of COVID-19, many hospitals and businesses have implemented temperature screenings for employees, patients and customers using infrared thermometers. These devices offer efficiency, safety and accuracy in detecting fevers in large groups of people. They don’t, however, detect COVID-19 in these individuals.

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Research has shown that, when used correctly, infrared or no-contact thermometers are just as accurate as oral or rectal thermometers. No-contact thermometers are popular among pediatricians, as kids often squirm around when trying to get a temperature read, but it also holds true in mass temperature screenings. The device offers safety to both parties while providing a quick and accurate read.

Of course, when available, an internal thermometer is the gold standard in healthcare, but due to COVID-19 and the need to quickly mass test, a no-contact thermometer has become the standard. The operator needs to follow the device’s protocol and it won’t pick up a fever on someone who has taken fever-reducing medication. But with many establishments now requiring temperature checks, these hand-held thermometers are proving to be safe, quick and accurate while helping to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Family medicine specialist Neha Vyas, MD.

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