Non-contact infrared thermometers (NCIT)
On this page
- Non-contact infrared thermometers (NCIT) and COVID-19
- NCIT limitations in screening for COVID-19
- Factors that influence the accuracy of NCITs
- Best practices when using NCITs
- Recommendations for using NCITs
Non-contact infrared thermometers and COVID-19
Non-contact infrared thermometers (NCITs) measure body temperature from a specific distance by sensing the energy emitted by humans. NCITs offer a way to take your temperature without touching, unlike traditional thermometers that require physical contact. NCITs have been widely used during the COVID-19 pandemic because of their:
- ease of use
- non-contact method of measurement
We are issuing this notice to share important information about the use of NCITs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
NCIT limitations in screening for COVID-19
A report by the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health shows that reliance on NCIT readings alone is ineffective for detecting people who have COVID-19.
A fever is only one way to help identify a person who might have a COVID-19 infection. Fever often indicates the presence of an infectious disease, but other non-infectious medical conditions can also result in above-normal body temperature. Fever is not usually the first symptom of COVID-19, and in some cases, a fever never develops. Temperature readings alone should, therefore, not be used to diagnose COVID-19, regardless of what kind of thermometer is used. For more information, consult our page on COVID-19 symptoms and treatment.
Factors that influence the accuracy of NCITs
NCITs are considered more susceptible to inaccurate measurements than other thermometers (for example, oral and rectal thermometers, well-calibrated tympanic thermometers). Several factors influence the ability of NCITs to detect fever accurately, including:
- relative humidity
- significant perspiration
- positioning on forehead
- makeup on the target area
- clothing that may impact a person's temperature such as hats, toques, scarves and winter coats
- presence of direct sunlight or radiant heat sources
- use of any fever reducing therapy (for example, acetaminophen)
- exposure to cold or hot weather before temperature measurement
The inaccuracy of NCITs is made worse:
- in uncontrolled environmental settings
- where instructions are not precisely followed
Best practices when using NCITs
There are a number of actions to ensure NCITs work most effectively. It is important to note that different thermometers may have different performance specifications listed in the instructions. You should strictly follow the manufacturer's guidelines and instructions for use for the specific NCIT model you're using.
Preparing the environment and NCIT
Where the NCIT is used may affect its performance. The recommendations for optimal NCIT use include:
- using it in a draft-free space, out of direct sun and away from radiant heat sources (for example, fireplace, indoor or outdoor portable heaters)
- using it at temperatures between 16ºC and 40ºC (60.8ºF to 104ºF) and relative humidity below 85 percent
- placing it in the testing environment or room for 10 to 30 minutes before use to allow it to adjust to the environment
Preparing the person who is having their temperature taken
To take someone's temperature with an NCIT, you should ensure that:
- the test area of the forehead is clean, dry and not blocked during measurement
- the person's body temperature or temperature at the forehead test area has not been increased or decreased by:
- using facial cleansing products such as cosmetic wipes
- wearing excessive clothing or head covers such as headbands, toques or bandanas
- sufficient time is allowed for the person's temperature to stabilize when entering from outside, as exposure to cold or hot weather prior to measurement will affect reading accuracy
Using the NCIT
Typical instructions for using NCITs include:
- Keep the sensor clean and dry.
- Do not touch the sensing area of the NCIT.
- Hold the NCIT sensing area at a 90-degree angle to the forehead and instruct the person to remain still during measurement(s).
- Use at the correct distance between the NCIT and forehead. Consult the manufacturer's instructions for the correct distance.
Cleaning between uses
Follow the instructions in the cleaning and disinfecting section provided by the manufacturer (instructions for use).
- Follow the best practices and the manufacturer's instructions when using NCITs.
- Remember that many factors affect NCIT accuracy and that NCIT readings are only one part of the disease screening process.
- NCIT readings do not themselves rule in or rule out the presence of infection.
- Temperature readings alone should not be used to diagnose COVID-19, regardless of what kind of thermometer is used.
- Report any adverse events or complaints with NCITs.
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