Using a Surface Temperature Scanner on COVID-19 Patients May Not Be Reliable

Using a surface temperature scanner to check the body temperature of people coming to a public place or event is probably not the most accurate way to identify a potential COVID-19 patient. The new study published in the journal Experimental Physiology reveals that it can have a high chance of false-negative results, making the COVID-19 patients enter into public places, completely undiagnosed.

The research team has suggested trying to take the temperature reading from a suspected person’s eye as well as his fingertip, which may give a better reading of his body temperature, using the surface temperature scanner.

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The results of this study are worrisome because if the surface temperature scanners are not working efficiently, it means that many COVID-19 patients are moving freely and spreading this virus to other healthy individuals. Probably this explains why the daily COVID-19 cases are still at risk, despite following all necessary precautions.

Temperature is often considered as merit to identify a disease whereas, in the case of COVID-19, it may not be true. Not every COVID-19 patient suffers from a fever or any other symptom and there are thousands of them who are asymptomatic. Some of these only develop a fever after they are taken to a hospital.

Secondly, skin temperature is never a good estimate of the actual body temperature. Many times, the skin temperature is way different than real body temperature which is normally raised if there is an underlying disease i.e., fever. It means measuring the body temperature as the only identification for a potential COVID-19 patient is a weak parameter and impractical.

On the other side, if a person has a high body temperature, it doesn’t always link to COVID-19.  Taking the temperature reading from the eyes and the fingertips is more likely to present a true picture of actual body temperature and indicate if a person has a fever.

According to the research team, relying on the forehead temperature alone is not sufficient and absolutely not reliable as it has a high level of false-negative results. Skin temperature is not just dependent upon an underlying fever or infection but has many other factors to change it. The most common example is how exercise changes the body temperature suddenly and it is easy to mistake a high temperature for fever using a surface temperature scanner.

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The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has changed all parts of human life and there is no way to predict if it is the last pandemic that has hit humanity. If there are more pandemics to come, developing better and more reliable methods to identify the potential patients is much needed. So, relying on a vague body temperature measurement is not enough.

To this date, fever has been regarded as the most common symptom associated with COVID-19.

But it often shows up along with cough, difficulty in breathing, throat infection, muscular pains, nausea, congestion, and diarrhea. Based on infection severity, a person may experience only a few or all of them. So, it is highly unlikely that fever will show up alone, with no other symptoms. But if we take these other factors along with fever, it may help to identify a COVID-19 more effectively.

Areeba Hussain

The author is a fulltime medical and healthcare writer. She graduated in Medical Microbiology and Immunology with distinction. Her areas of prime interest are medicine, medical technology, disease awareness, and research analysis. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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