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Infrared thermometer

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One of the questions I get asked most frequently at the pharmacy is whether or not the infrared frontal (and ear) thermometer is working properly.

The topic is of close interest to me as I have to deal with little girls who attend daycare and get sick frequently.

In this article, I will try to shed some light on how best to use devices of this type, not least because they are very convenient to stick in your suitcase for when you travel.

You might also be interested in Suitcase Medication Checklist.

Measuring fever with infrared thermometer

The organ responsible for regulating temperature in our body is the anterior hypothalamus; therefore, in order to have an absolutely perfect measurement of body temperature, one would have to stick a probe into the thermolytic center of it. Obviously, it is not possible to proceed with such a measurement at home.

A good compromise might be to measure temperature with an infrared thermometer or Thermoscanner that combines accuracy with practicality and speed of measurement. Normally these thermometers can be directed at the temple or in the ear cord (a more accurate point because it is protected from the external environment).

However, some factors must be taken into account that have a very important influence on the success of the measurement.

The skin is exposed to atmospheric agents such as air temperature, sun, rain, humidity, wind etc. To make a correct measurement at home for example, the forehead should not be sweaty. And there should be no hair obstructing the infrared rays.

Every part of the body dissipates heat differently, and this can be observed by thermal mapping conducted on the face of a healthy person: the thermal camera shows how very close areas of the face have very different temperatures.

Basically this is the answer of why if we proceed with several measurements, the temperature always comes out different: because you never measure twice in the exact same spot!

In theory, the most accurate point for taking the temperature would be the corner of the eye, near the tear duct, because it is a point of the body that is little exposed to external agents and has a temperature similar to the temperature inside the body. In practice, you can imagine the difficulty in detecting temperature at that point to a child!

Movement makes the measurement inaccurate so although it is not at all easy with children, it is necessary for them to be still during the measurement.

The thermometer must have been in the same room in which the measurement is taken for at least 15-30 minutes (depending on the device).

Measurement of temperature using an infrared thermometer, should be done without skin contact, at the distance indicated by the thermometer manufacturer (usually 1 to 3 cm). It is important to comply with these directions because if the thermometer is held too close or conversely too far away, the temperature may vary by as much as half a degree.

Infrared thermometer. Models of infrared thermometer on the market

Many infrared thermometers can be found on the market that have more or less the same features. In my opinion, the best ones are the simplest ones; a few but clear and easy-to-understand functions such as differentiated display lighting (red for fever, green for normal temperature), immediate temperature reading, memory recall of previous temperatures are sufficient.

I have been using the same thermometer for several years and have always been comfortable with it. It is both frontal and ear-mounted. It also detects the temperature of food (convenient for baby’s milk, for example). Link below 👇

Infrared thermometer

On the other hand, if you want a somewhat more professional, ear-only thermometer, you can go for this model from Braun, which can also be tax deductible since it is a medical device. Link below 👇

Infrared thermometer

Infrared thermometer. Conclusions

Infrared thermometers for measuring body temperature, are reliable and accurate thermometers: it is precisely “because” of this accuracy that we sometimes think they work poorly. However, by respecting the directions I have given you above, we could use them more consciously to get the most accurate and reliable results possible.

Small note

This article is developed based on my personal and pharmacist experience. Always consult your primary care physician if you have any questions.

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