Which type of thermometer works best? We put them to the test

Published: Sep. 22, 2020 at 8:09 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Checking your temperature before going to work, school or restaurants is part of the new normal during the pandemic.

But what kind of thermometer gives the most accurate screening?

Infrared thermometers are a considered pretty effective way to check someone’s skin temperature while maintaining social distancing.

But according to Augusta University chief of infectious disease Dr. Jose Vazquez, there are some caveats.

One is that a normal temperature doesn’t necessarily mean someone isn’t infected.

“The importance of that is really minimal when you are looking for COVID because less than 50 percent of COVID patients actually have a fever,” he said.

But when it comes to thermometers, he said: “The oral ones are more accurate. ... They take more of a central temperature.”

When we put them to the test, an oral thermometer gave a temperature reading of 94.9, but a no-contact infrared thermometer came back with 97.3.

Vazquez says certain factors must be taken into account because the temperature of your skin surface may vary.

“If you are in your car and you have the air conditioner going full blast into your face or into your forehead, and you get out and take the temperature on your forehead, then yeah, it’s going to be a lot lower,” he said.

Or if you’re outside in 100-degree weather and you take a walk around the block before getting your temperature taken, it will probably be elevated.

He says although thermometers are a great way to quickly screen a crowd of people, you’re not guaranteed the best results.

“Probably the one we should be asking is if you are short of breath or have a cough or have chest pain,” he said.

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