Use of Non-Contact Infrared Thermometers During Cold Weather

Cooler weather in Pennsylvania is here. Monitoring children’s temperatures during the health screening procedure may need to be adjusted if using a non-contact infrared thermometer (NCIT). The FDA describes the following pros and cons to using these devices. The benefits to using a non-contact infrared thermometer include: the reduction of risk of spreading disease since there is no contact between the person and the device, it is easy to use and disinfect, and it is a quick way to measure a person’s temperature. Improper use of NCITs may lead to inaccurate measurements.

The drawbacks to using a non-contact infrared thermometer include that the environment, placement, and clothing may affect the reading. Strictly follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and instructions for use for the specific thermometer. Typical use is to monitor the temperature of the forehead by holding the non-contact infrared thermometer perpendicular to the forehead at the distance and time specified in the manufacturer’s instructions. The environment should be draft-free and out of direct sun or heat sources. Environmental temperature should be within the range specified by manufacturer, usually around 60.8-104⁰F (16-40⁰C) and relative humidity below 85 percent. The person being screened should have a clean, dry forehead. Excessive clothing or head covers (headbands, hats, bandanas) could increase the temperature reading and should be removed with ample time to permit the temperature of the forehead to stabilize.

In a recent survey, early childhood education (ECE) providers offered suggestions to address possible issues with the cold weather affecting temperature screening, including:

Storage and Use:

-Store and use thermometer in area that is a constant temperature within manufacturer’s suggested range.

-Carry thermometer in and out when bringing the child to their classroom via the aprons that program provides. 

-Use other different types of thermometers, such as an ear thermometer with probe cover or a digital thermometer with disposable plastic covers, if the non-contact infrared thermometer doesn’t work. (Note that additional disinfection procedures of device may be necessary).

-Some manufacturers suggest aiming the thermometer at the area behind the child’s ear if forehead readings are inaccurate. 

Screening Variations:

-Screen students as they remain in their vehicles for temperature checks and screening questions during daily check-in. Parents exit vehicles and walk child to the entrance after all temperatures are taken for that drop-off group. Drop off times are assigned 10 minutes apart to allow time for this process.

-Take temperatures at the door and then again in the timeframe recommended in the manufacturer’s guidelines. Continue with mid-day scans of the children and staff to monitor temperatures throughout the day and at the end of the day.

-Perform the temperature screening indoors:

-Keep the thermometers inside and allow children to enter a small area that is indoors but outside of the center (i.e. a foyer or empty side room). Permit the children to remove their hat and coat.

-Screen children indoors while parents are still present at drop off. If temperature appears to be off, take temperature again 15 minutes later. The child should remain socially distant and wearing mask during this waiting period.

-Install a double door entry foyer.
Example: During a prior renovation, a program installed a double door entry foyer with a sink just inside the second door. Family members enter the first door, then check the student’s temperature. The adult shows the temperature recorded to the staff member through the glass wall of the second door. Staff member asks the health questions through the glass wall of the second door. Staff member determines whether child can be admitted. If yes, the adult uses the computer pad in between the two glass doors to clock in their student. This triggers door to open and student is admitted to center. The foyer entryway is heated via a small built-in-the-wall, heating unit.

Additional information can be found in "Are infrared thermometers safe?” by Elizabeth Murray, DO, FAAP at, the American Academy of Pediatrics’ website for parents

Remember to update your COVID-19 Health and Safety plan if you modify screening practices.