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VERIFY: Breaking down thermometers and which are the best

Search online and there are lots of thermometers you can buy. So which is best? And how can you get the most accurate results?

Fever is one of the major symptoms of COVID-19 and it’s one that should be easy to test yourself for. The only problem? There are dozens of different thermometer models to choose from. 

Some use infrared and some are digital sensors you put in your mouth or ear.

We reached out to Neysa Ernst, the Nurse Manager in Endoscopy and bio-containment at Johns Hopkins Hospital to answer some of the biggest questions.

Which ones work best?

According to Ernst, temporal thermometers are the most accurate, quickest and easiest to keep sanitary. They work by simply touching the thermometer to someone’s forehead.

“What we have found is that the temporal thermometers actually work the best,” Ernst said. “Part of the reason they work the best is that they're fast and they don't take into account the ambient temperatures in the room.”

The Mayo Clinic says they’re appropriate for infants older than three months of age and that “research suggests that temporal artery thermometers are the most accurate alternative to rectal digital thermometers.”

Following, temporal thermometers, digital thermometers are the best to use. They’re cheap and easy to find and can give anyone the ability to determine their baseline temperatures. 

Ernst said in her experience, rectal thermometers are the most accurate of the digital type but most people don’t want to use them. 

Which ones might be best for employers as they go back?

Temporal thermometers are the top recommendation according to Ernst. 

“It’s fast, accurate and then you’re simply wiping it down with an alcohol wipe and you can take the next employee who comes in,” she said. 

Infrared thermometers are also good choice, but the environment needs to be controlled. Make sure you scan people in the same place and at the same time so you can get the most accurate baseline possible.

Oral/Ear thermometers could work for some businesses but would be less desirable since employers would need to purchase disposable covers.

How can I accurately tell if I have a fever? (We know the estimated temps – but what if I run hot/cold?)

The CDC says for most people, a fever is a temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. But some people run hot or cold. 

While some thermometers may be more accurate than others, almost any thermometer can be useful as long as you create a baseline to compare to.

The idea is that you measure your temperature at the same time of day and record your results. That way, even if you’re above or below the average, you can know if you’re running hot for you.

Bottom Line:

Ernst highly recommended temporal thermometers, especially for businesses that are looking for a quick and sanitary way to test employees coming back to the office.

But she also said any thermometer is better than none. The key is testing before you’re feeling sick so you know if your temperature is higher than normal.

Oh, and last thing: If you have a glass thermometer…

“Simple message,” Ernst said. “Glass thermometer? Get rid of it.”

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