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Non-contact Temperature Assessment Devices During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Updated: Aug 19

As states and communities implement reopening plans during the COVID-19 pandemic, non-contact temperature assessment devices may be used as part of an initial check at entry points to identify and triage people who may have elevated temperatures. Be aware that, even when the devices are used properly, temperature assessment may have limited impact on reducing the spread of COVID-19 infections. Some studies suggest that temperature measurements alone may miss more than half of infected people.

Thermal imaging systems and non-contact infrared thermometers, which are non-contact temperature assessment devices, may be used to measure a person's temperature. An elevated temperature is one way to identify a person who may have a COVID-19 infection, although an infected person may be contagious without an elevated temperature or other easily detectable symptoms.


About Non-contact Temperature Assessment Devices

Establishments such as businesses, transportation systems, and community organizations are developing plans to resume normal or phased operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. These plans may include an initial assessment to try to identify people who may be infectious to limit the spread of COVID-19 infections. Temperature measurement can be one part of the assessment to determine if a person has an elevated temperature potentially caused by a COVID-19 infection. One method to measure a person's surface temperature is the use of "no-touch" or non-contact temperature assessment devices, such as thermal imaging systems (also known as thermal imaging kiosk, Body Temperature Detection Attendance Kiosk, Fever screening system or infrared telethermographic systems) or non-contact infrared thermometers. The use of other temperature assessment devices, such as oral thermometers, requires physical contact which may increase the risk of spreading infection.

The available scientific literature supports using thermal imaging systems and non-contact infrared thermometers to detect elevated temperatures.  These devices have many benefits, but they must be used properly to get accurate readings. Since an elevated temperature does not conclusively indicate a COVID-19 infection, further evaluation and diagnostic testing are needed to determine if someone has a COVID-19 infection.


Benefits of Non-contact Temperature Assessment Devices

  • These non-contact devices can quickly measure and display a temperature reading so a large number of people can be evaluated individually at points of entry.

  • Non-contact infrared thermometers require minimal cleaning between uses.

  • Using non-contact temperature measurement devices may help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 infections.

Limitations of Non-contact Temperature Assessment Devices

Non-contact temperature assessment devices are not effective if used as the only means of detecting a COVID-19 infection. Available scientific literature has identified that effectiveness can be limited by several factors, including:

  • Infections without a fever;

  • Use of fever-reducing drugs;

  • Other infections or conditions that may cause elevated temperatures;

  • Devices failing to identify elevated temperatures, or misreading normal temperatures as elevated;

  • Failure to follow the manufacturer's instructions for use, such as for set-up, operation, and training.

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