As the nation reopens, are forehead thermometers an effective way to check for the coronavirus?

  • The infrared thermometers accurately take your temperature
  • But that doesn’t mean it always shows whether you have the coronavirus 
  • The thermometers could be manipulated

During the coronavirus pandemic, the infrared thermometers being used to screen the temperatures of prisoners, people at airports, and healthcare workers estimate internal temperature. Their readings are generally considered to be accurate

Taking the temperatures of people in healthcare facilities and largely populated areas like airports and gyms is an effective method of screening for those who have fevers. However, a study of coronavirus patients in New York showed 30% of people did not show fever as a symptom. 

So although the thermometers are an effective means of taking a temperature, coronavirus doesn’t always rear its head with a fever. Therefore, the forehead thermometers are not the most effective way of determining if someone has the coronavirus. 

In federal prisons, inmates are reportedly standing in front of air conditioning units to cool their foreheads before being scanned to avoid registering a fever. If an inmate registers as ill, they risk being put in the Special Housing Unit. This is an important flaw to note regarding the use of forehead thermometers: Their readings can be manipulated.

How else can I tell if I have coronavirus?

Other common symptoms of the coronavirus include coughing and shortness of breath. These have become the hallmark of the virus, as well as an abrupt loss of sense of taste and smell. Muscular pain, sore throat, and chills are also characteristic to those who contract COVID-19. 

These symptoms won’t be noticeable right after exposure, either. The coronavirus has an incubation period of two to 14 days, leaving infected individuals asymptomatic in the meantime. 

Sources: NPR, Mayo Clinic, CDC, JAMA Network, The Marshall Project

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