Infrared thermometers are everywhere. But are they accurate?


Infrared thermometers are everywhere. But are they accurate?

COVID-19 has changed the way we live our lives, and one obvious sign is the proliferation of hand-held infrared thermometers.
Because fever is one of several common COVID-19 symptoms, many organizations are now using infrared thermometers to screen people for the illness.
The process happens so quickly you might wonder if infrared thermometers are accurate.
When used correctly, the answer is yes, according to multiple studies. Researchers have found that non-contact infrared thermometers are particularly useful to check the temperatures of children, who tend to prefer them over oral or rectal thermometers, and for mass temperature screenings. 
Dr. Gerald Harmon, vice president of medical affairs at Tidelands Health, has personally tested several different models of infrared thermometers.
“Although oral and rectal thermometers remain the gold standard for medical care, I’ve found infrared thermometers to be safe and accurate,” says Dr. Harmon. “They’re also very efficient when you have to test large numbers of people.”

Quick and accurate

Dr. Harmon says it’s important for infrared thermometer users to closely follow the manufacturer’s instructions and cautioned the thermometers may not detect a fever if someone has taken a fever-reducing medication.
“Used correctly, a no-touch thermometer can provide a quick and accurate reading of a person’s body temperature without contact between the two individuals,” Dr. Harmon says. “It’s a very helpful tool that is helping to protect people’s health and limit the spread of COVID-19.”

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It’s also important to remember not all people with COVID-19 will develop a fever, and just because you have a fever doesn’t mean you necessarily have the illness, Dr. Harmon says. However, a fever is cause for concern because it’s a sign your body is trying to ward off an infection.
If you develop a fever or other symptoms of COVID-19 and are concerned you might have the disease, call the Tidelands Health COVID-19 Nurse Line at 843-652-8800 Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for COVID-19 screening and referral.
Another option is to contact your primary care provider for instructions on what to do next. If you do not have a primary care provider, call 1-866-TIDELANDS for assistance locating one.

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Across the region, more than 2,500 Tidelands Health team members are working tirelessly to respond to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Learn how you can show your support by clicking here.

In addition to fever, common symptoms of COVID-19 include cough, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
Although most people can recover at home from COVID-19 without medical care, some people develop serious complications.
“If you begin to experience emergency symptoms, call 911 immediately,” Dr. Harmon says. “Don’t take any chances.”
The best way to avoid becoming ill is to avoid exposure to the virus, Dr. Harmon says. He encourages people to follow the CDC’s guidelines to limit its spread.

  • Make sure to regularly wash your hands with soap and water, or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Follow social distancing guidelines by staying at least six feet away from others. Avoid large gatherings.
  • Wear a cloth face covering in places where social distancing is difficult. Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing or anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
  • If you aren’t wearing your cloth face covering, cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, or use the inside of your elbow. Throw away the tissue, and wash your hands immediately afterward.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
Meet the Expert

Dr. Gerald Harmon

Dr. Gerald Harmon, who has cared for patients in our region for more than 35 years, is a family medicine physician and vice president of medical affairs at Tidelands Health.

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