As a first line of defense, knowing that an individual is running a fever is by far the best indicator that someone could have a virus that can be passed on to other individuals. For this reason, having our body temperature read before accessing offices and buildings where large amounts of people congregate is becoming very common.
Luckily, this safety procedure is now being performed without being intrusive with the use of non-contact body temperature scanners. There are a lot of benefits to using these devices over traditional oral temperature readers or ear canal thermometers. They are easy to use, they allow the user to not come in physical contact with the person being measured, they are quick, and they offer the ability to measure the skin temperature repeatedly and frequently.
But, how does this technology work and can it be reliable? With the onslaught of products that are being promoted in the name of public health safety, we decided to dig a bit deeper into this promising technology for the answers.
The Science Behind It
Going back to science class, every molecule in our body is constantly vibrating. The hotter it is the faster the molecules vibrate. This vibration produces infrared (IR) energy that is given off by an object. The more vibration the more IR energy is given off by the said object. We are constantly radiating infrared energy.
IR thermometers measure the amount of IR energy emitted by an object by using lenses and mirrors to focus the energy onto a detector. The detector converts the emitted IR energy into an electrical signal which is then turned into a temperature reading on the screen. This can also be pixelized to create a “cool” image.
Another way to think about the process would be a Blacksmith working with iron. When he puts the iron in the fire, the metal is heated, and it becomes white-hot. Over time the metal cools and becomes redder. The Blacksmith knows that the metal is cooling by the color he sees with his eyes (the detector). This is similar to how an IR thermometer measures our temperature, but it is quite more accurate than our eyes.
So, How Accurate Are These IR Devices?
They are actually the most accurate technology we have right now given the right conditions. Individual devices are programmed to work at different distances and take into effect the surrounding temperature readings. So, there are variables that the units have to adjust for and using a quality IR device is very important.
The Xenon Fever Defense Body Temperature Monitor is a thermal scanner kiosk that screens users in less than one second and is accurate up to +/-0.3 degrees. If a user has an elevated temperature reading, a red light is visible with an audible warning message. A normal temperature reading gives a visible green light.
Also, the human body temperature could vary depending on the environment. In the summer I was waiting in my hot car for a dentist appointment and when I walked in, it said I had a fever, but it was just because I was sweating in my car. I cooled down in 2 minutes, retested and was good to go.
What Is a Good Temperature Range?
So, what is a good temperature range to know if someone does not have a fever? The common temperature that we normally hear is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit or 37 degrees Celsius. This is actually a little high for today’s average. This average temp was determined in the 1860s before antibiotics were available, this meant that a lot of people had infections that could not be treated, which would have increased their temp if they were chronically sick.
Today a normal adult body temp, when taken orally, can range from 97.6°F to 99.6°F (36.4°C to 37.5°C). In adults they are considered to have a fever when their temperature is at least 100.4°F (38°C). Children are not much different with their temperature ranging from 95.9°F to 99.5°F when it is taken orally.
It is important when using IR type detectors that the head area is measured without any covering. The top of the head is where all the bodies heat rises to. The hands for example will show to be much cooler. If you have ever seen the movie Predator (1987) when Arnold Schwarzenegger covers himself in mud to prevent the Predator’s infrared vision from seeing him, you know it is important to have a clear area where you are measuring.
IR Thermometers Today
The general conclusion we can draw from this is that IR thermometers are a very useful tool for detecting fever and fighting the spread of SARS-CoV-2 virus and others. They can be used to quickly screen our community and protect people. That’s not to say that IR thermometers don’t have other uses, but right now they are exceedingly helpful during this pandemic.
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