Background on temperature scanning with non-contact thermometers

If you haven’t had your forehead scanned with an infrared thermometer before entering a building recently, it will likely happen soon enough. From offices and stores to restaurants and entertainment venues, temperature screening at the door is just one of the many ways businesses and governments are evaluating individuals for potential COVID-19 infections.

CDC Guidelines for Temperature Checks

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists temperature checks as an “optional strategy” to decrease the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks. Because the CDC does not mandate the checks, it is up to states to determine temperature check requirements. In many states, temperature checks are mandatory at gyms and fitness centers, manufacturing facilities, restaurants, and retail stores. Other states require all employees to undergo daily temperature checks.

Who’s impacted by temperature screening?

Walmart and Amazon have been checking employee temperatures since mid-March, around the same time the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace approved the use of temperature measurement on employees. This approval was also backed up by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Now schools are contemplating the use of temperature checks before students can enter—if the schools decide to open their doors at all. And airlines, most recently, have asked that the federal government require all passengers to have their temperatures checked prior to passing through TSA. Frontier Airlines has already taken temperature measurement into its own hands by checking passengers at the gate.

What constitutes a fever?

The adage that 98.6 °F is “normal” is more associated with a song than anything medically factual. According to the Cleveland Clinic, a study revealed that “the average person today actually runs a little cooler than [98.6 °F]—somewhere between 97.5 °F and 97.9 °F.”

So then, anything over 97.9 °F is a fever? Not quite. By one definition, the “CDC considers a person to have a fever when he or she has a measured temperature of 100.4 °F or greater.”

What are the best ways to screen for a fever?

So, it seems that temperature checks would be one simple and straight-forward method to use—take the temperature of every individual before entering, determine their temperature, and provide guidance to that individual.

Temperature check validity depends on the device and conditions under which it is used. Here are the four primary ways to capture human temperature.

  1. Oral digital thermometers: the most accurate, but likely not practical for screening large numbers of people
  2. Ear thermometers: can be accurate but can be prone to error due to things like ear canals blocked by wax
  3. Non-contact forehead infrared thermometers: can be accurate, but are prone to inconsistency due to ambient temperatures, sweat, dust, or water
  4. Infrared thermal cameras: can be used to move people through screening more quickly; works as an initial screening system for temperatures detected that exceed a predetermined threshold

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has identified non-contact infrared thermometers as a good choice for human temperature measurement in the attempt to avoid the spread of COVID-19. The primary issues identified by healthcare professionals regarding non-contact infrared thermometers has been around accuracy and repeatability.

Fluke 67 MAX

Fluke has engineered the Fluke 67 MAX temperature measurement tool. The Fluke 67 MAX Clinical Infrared Thermometer is accurate down to the 0.5 °F in ambient temperatures from 59 °F to 104 °F.

The Fluke 67 MAX is ready to use as soon as it is turned on. With the SCAN feature the user simply moves the thermometer in an arc over the forehead. The thermometer reads all temperatures in the scan and shows the highest measured as the result. This SCAN feature also reduces the possibility of interference from sweat, dust, or water.

*The Fluke 67 MAX accuracy complies with and accuracy tested in accordance with ASTM E1965-98 and ISO 80601-2-56 standard but is not FDA 510(k) cleared or approved

Related resources

Learn More