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Introducing Infrared Thermometer: The Recent Alternative to Detect Fever in Children

Updated on February 16, 2016
Photo credit: jamesbastow via / CC BY-SA
Photo credit: jamesbastow via / CC BY-SA


Illness in children is stressful for families as they cannot verbalize their feeling or the exact location of any pain. So parents need to arm themselves with tools to help determine if a child is sick.

Fever is the most common symptom children experience, and the best way to confirm before mistakenly going to a doctor is through the use of a handheld device. Today, there is an increasing number of people who are using infrared thermometers.

The 5 Awesome Benefits

No contact necessary: A parent might be overwhelmed by the many types in the market; there are rectal, ear, oral, pacifier and armpit — but all these pose problems because they require contact with the child, which is often met with resistance especially if a sick child is irritable. The infrared type for the forehead is preferred for children because measurement can be taken at a distance from the hot surface and in seconds.

Easy to use: Parents who used to worry about holding their children still to get adequate reading now only have to “point and shoot” to get a child’s temperature. Most devices also have memory functions so you can compare the current and previous reading. They are compact, lightweight, and intuitively easy to use. Modern models may also allow you to sync results with your smart phone.

Accurate: Most of these type are pointed towards the forehead to detect the temporal artery, which carries blood from the heart, making it an ideal place to measure core temperature. While rectal thermometer is often regarded as gold standard by pediatricians, the infrared type is the most accurate alternative, with some studies even showing better accuracy. A recent study showed infrared models wherein differed from the rectal temperature on average by 0.03 degree Celsius, or one-twentieth of a degree Fahrenheit.

Best Alternative to Newborns. Children 3 months below are recommended to use rectal to ensure accuracy. But, infrared thermometers are the most accurate alternative and the best screening tool at this age before doing the more invasive rectal temperature taking.

Accessible: Gone are the days when they remain confined for use in hospital settings and come with a hefty price tag. More people now have easy access through their supermarkets, drug and medical supply stores, and at a relatively affordable cost compared to 5 years ago. Along with automated blood pressure apparatuses and easy use blood sugar monitors, they are among the fast growing additions to the personal care medical device market.

Steps on How to Use

Infrared thermometers measure temperature through the surface energy being radiated. The infrared energy emitted is gathered through the optics, which the detector reads and transforms infrared energy into electrical signals, converted then to a processing unit that becomes the degree of temperature measured.

Setting up is often as easy as putting in the power source. Typically, the power source are alkaline batteries (AA, AAA, or 9-volt) or lithium rechargeable batteries connected to a charging port that comes with the packaging.

The batteries are generally found on the handle. The compartment cover can just be removed by pushing on the handle through the small indentions on both sides and then, pushing again downwards.

After installing the batteries, most models have an on-off button by the handle that you hold down for a period of time (usually 7-15 seconds) to initiate. Most models will also allow you to change the display settings to either Celsius or Fahrenheit through the same button.

The laser thermometer will recall the most recent temperature setting even after the unit has been turned off. To measure the temperature, the parent will just aim the unit to point the single or dual red laser to the child ideally at the forehead to catch the temporal artery.

It is important to note that you should wait for a child to stop sweating before taking the temperature to get an accurate reading because sweat cools the forehead skin. The temperature reading will appear at the LCD screen in less than a second and will remain there until a pre-set time wherein the unit will automatically shut itself.

Some models have a minimum set distance (indicated as distance to spot ratio) for accurate temperature taking. It will still be best to read the manual before use to understand a specific model’s settings.

The 5 Types

Described above are spot infrared thermometer, also known as infrared pyrometers, which are commonly for home and hospital use. They are called such because they measure the temperature from a specific spot in the surface.

Ear or tympanic, detect the electromagnetic radiation thru the ear canal as well as tympanic membrane without direct contact to it. The tympanic membrane is used as measurement site because of its blood supply from the internal carotid artery. But unlike forehead thermometers, these will still need contact with the child.

Non-contact temporal artery measure the radiation from the temporal region, which is to be placed right above one’s forehead skin when used. You will see a tracking light to indicate the measurement area. Because it does not come into contact with the people, the risk of cross infection is reduced. And running costs of this laser thermometer are low because no disposable covers are required.

Infrared scanning systems is a relative tool that can check bigger areas and are one of many nondestructive testing techniques. They are utilized as a spot detector but pointed at a rotating mirror and are widely used in temperature and radiation monitoring in manufacturing and production because of its ability to scan continuous piles of material along a conveyor belt. It has become gold standard for ensuring food and quality safety, automotive testing, and electrical inspection.

Infrared thermal cameras are infrared radiation types that measure temperature at many points over a large area. These are used to generate a thermogram, or a two-dimensional image, which will result in each pixel representing a temperature, similar to a common camera that forms an image using visible light.

The initial usage of the thermographic camera is for military purposes through infrared-sensitive (night vision) electronic television, viewfinding, and strategic defense. They were introduced towards civil use such as in airport use to screen incoming passengers for infectious diseases later on.

The Verdict

Having a trustworthy handheld tool to detect fever will make temperature less traumatic for both the child and the parents. Infrared thermometers are safe and the easiest to use among all other options. It is best to have this handy tool early in childhood to maximize and enjoy the benefits!

If you will get an infrared thermometer for your kids now, what attribute is the most convincing to you?

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    • lollyj lm profile image

      Laurel Johnson 

      2 years ago from Washington KS

      I've used infrared thermometers and they are just as your hub says -- easy, convenient, accurate, and not stressful to use.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      2 years ago from The Caribbean

      No kids around, but it's great having the information on this new tool. Thank you.


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