General Temperature Guide

July 30, 2020

While the symptoms of COVID-19 are varied, and some people may never exhibit any physical symptoms, fevers are commonly associated with the disease. Anyone with a fever of 100.4 or higher should be isolated and tested as soon as possible. When routinely testing employees or clients for fevers, it’s important to know how to safely and accurately check one’s temperature.


The following methods of assessing temperature are the most commonly used and widely available, and each type presents a unique set of advantages and limitations. Regardless of which type of thermometer you choose, following the manufacturer’s guidelines will typically yield more accurate results. If taking temperatures for screening purposes, the test should be administered outside of the facility and the screener should be behind a physical barrier, such as a transparent partition. The screener should wear a facemask, disposable gloves, and eye protection.


Oral Thermometers
Easy to use and relatively inexpensive, oral thermometers have been counted on for years to provide fairly accurate readings. However, eating or drinking liquids within 30 minutes of the reading can cause an inaccurate measurement. The real drawback to taking oral temperatures during a pandemic is the risk of contagion. The close contact needed to take a temperature orally is not ideal, nor is the fact that the person being screened must remove their facemask to insert the thermometer. If using oral thermometers, be sure to use disposable probe covers, and clean thoroughly with soap and water or rubbing alcohol between screenings.


Temperature Strips

Self-adhesive temperature strips are a common method for fairly accurately measuring a person’s temperature, as they provide results in 15 seconds or less. Even when disposed of after each use, they are relatively inexpensive and allow screeners to keep a safe distance from those being tested. Allowing the person being tested to apply their own strip to their forehead minimizes contact, and consequently, the risk of spreading infection. When using temperature strips, remember that this method only measures the surface temperature of the skin, which can differ from the internal temperature in certain settings, such as outdoor areas.


Non-Contact Thermometers
Non-contact (or no-touch) thermometers have been widely used as a quick, safe, and somewhat accurate way to measure a person’s temperature. This could include thermal imaging or hand-held infrared thermometers. Requiring no physical contact is the main benefit of these technologies, but they must be properly used to get accurate readings. For example, the testing location must only be the surface of the skin, without clothing or anything else interfering with the sample. This may require a closer physical presence, but shields and guards can help mitigate the risk. The most common reasons for inaccurate readings when using non-contact thermometers are a failure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use or other objects interfering with the infrared beam. Additionally, measurements taken in outdoor areas exposed to the wind may be inaccurately low. When using a non-contact thermometer, you do not need to change gloves between screenings if you did not touch the person.

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