How Accurate is Your Temperature?

It is intimidating when you are at someone’s mercy. Your temperature could determine if you go home or go to quarantine.

Imagine one of the most powerful weapons of today is pointed towards your head—an infrared thermometer. The device determines if you are healthy or infected and if you should be free or quarantined.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, temperature checks were seen every day, everywhere, Dongguan included. An off the-chart body temperature can be a sign of catching the fast-spreading virus. You will be sent to a fever clinic if you have a temperature of 37.3 degrees Celsius to undergo series of examinations, following a pulmonary CT scan and throat swab for nucleic acid testing.

For over a century, 37 degrees Celsius was considered a normal body temperature, which was overturned recently by medical research done by Stanford University. The research says that the average body temperature of adults is dropping, from 37 degrees Celsius to 36.6 degrees Celsius. The body temperature may fluctuate between 0.5 to 1 degree, based on time of day, age, gender, activities, medications and so on.

So, when a security guard takes your body temperature at the entrance to your office or community, does he/she do it correctly? Are the results accurate and trustworthy?

The accuracy of an infrared thermometer is usually dependent on the environment in which it is being used. The best weather conditions for an infrared thermometer are between 16 and 35 degrees Celsius, and Dongguan fits perfectly. However, to reduce environmental disturbances and maximize its accuracy, the tester should take a healthy person’s temperature first in the same environment and use it as a reference when taking someone else’s. It is best if they take the temperature at least three times and use the average number as the final result.

I almost requested the security guard to take my temperature again after I took my son out for a short walk. He used a forehead infrared thermometer to take my temperature over my wrist, where my radial artery is. That is not right.

The wrist is an extremity of the body, and its temperature can be influenced by all sorts of factors. Thus, the result is not reliable.

Fear of causing unwanted droplets, I swallowed my urge to explain or ask for a second test.

My suggestion is to get a mercurial thermometer at home. It is cheap and accurate (remember to keep it out of reach of children) or get a digital ear infrared thermometer. If you like, you can even keep a log tracking your daily temperature to monitor your health status, possible pregnancy, coming menstrual cycle or aging.

Older people tend to have a lower temperature due to a slow metabolism and because inflammation is highly connected with to their body temperature. A fever is a common sign of illness, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, fevers play a key role in fighting infections. No matter what measures you take to spot an abnormal body temperature, pay close attention to the patient and keep him/her hydrated before making the call to see a doctor.