Hot weather can affect temperature readings


Are you hot?

Chances are… you are really hot. It’s Savannah in July for goodness sake!

We have the heat, humidity and now the coronavirus.

Temperature checks are being used in many places these days to check for a common sign of COVID-19.

Problem is, the hot weather right now might create some problems.

Just last week, I checked in for an appointment. While at the front desk, I was making small talk with the young woman. She said she was working two shifts because her co-worker was sent home with a 99-degree fever.

Puzzled… I asked what procedures were used to determine this ‘fever.’

I was told the employees park several feet away from the front door and then walk up to be tested. Upon further analysis, this sent home employee had no air conditioning in her car.

Well… talk about really hot.

So I decided to do a little research of my own.

Turns out some experts say if you step outside where it’s really hot and then step back inside and get your forehead screened right away… that thermometer might register hotter than you actually are. It’s picking up the heat that you picked up from outside.

It’s really not known how accurate these thermometers are.

Experts say the accuracy depends heavily on how they are used … such as how far the device is from you … where it’s pointed… and how long and steadily it’s held until the thermometer registers something.

Now let’s talk about numbers.

The normal body temperature for an adult is around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. But everyone’s baseline is a little different. Normal body temperature readings will vary depending on these factors… a person’s age and sex, the time of day (lowest reading in the morning and highest in the late afternoon), high or low activity levels, food and fluid intake, females and their monthly menstrual cycle, and finally the method of measurement used.

Some experts say the forehead thermometer is the least reliable of all thermometers because they only measure the skin temperature and not the core. But come on… it’s not like we can go to whole foods and get measured by an oral or rectal thermometer before being allowed in to shop. (not exactly the best visual is it??? … might have taken that example a bit far… sorry y’all)

Anyway… back to the subject.

Some say your body temperature isn’t a great way to tell if you’ve been infected anyway.

Sometimes we take medications that bring down a fever. Or maybe you’ve been infected, and your immune system isn’t responding with a fever.

Also, certain medications like amphetamines or withdrawal from alcohol can raise your body temperature. Even certain non-infectious diseases can raise a body temperature.

And finally, strenuous exercise can make you hot.

So what do we take away from this? Thermal screening can miss people and it can give false positives. Kind of sounds like the tests we have in place with the CDC. But… it’s all we have, and it might pick out a few. For now, we can just be informed and hope that things will calm down and that science will catch up.

(sources: Mayo Clinic, Net Doctor, Forbes, CDC)

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