Thermal screening: What’s safe, forehead or wrist?

Muscat: Thermal screening is prevalent at most of the places including shops and offices. The equipment is pointed either on the forehead or the wrist or elbow. Some medical experts believe that it is not safe to point the thermometers at the forehead, as its frequent exposure may lead to some health issues.

Some researchers have found the risk of infrared rays on sensitive body parts over some time. The infrared thermometers, however, can be used on the wrist or elbow to measure the body temperature.

“Infrared thermometers shouldn’t be pointed at the forehead to measure the temperature. Instead, the device can be pointed at the wrist or elbow fold to measure the body temperature. This is accurate as well as less harmful,” a statement issued by the SQUH has said.

“There are two types of thermometers,” Dr Renchi Mathew, Consultant Physician, Royal Oman Police, said.

“One has a laser beam and the other has infrared. The laser beam thermometers are not supposed to be used on the human body because they are meant for industrial purposes and used to assess the surface temperature,” he said.

Infrared thermometers, used to collect data from a distance, are fast and provide results indicating the body temperatures instantaneously.

“Our forehead is selected to measure temperature because the best source of body temperature is the mouth, from under the tongue. Forearm peripheral temperature will be less and that’s why forehead is chosen.”

“Prolonged exposure to sun’s infrared rays is harmful but measuring body temperature with infrared thermometers is a transient one and will not harm in the short run,” said Dr Renchy.

“Although no substantial studies have come out indicating the harmful effects, in hospitals the forehead is used to measure the temperature, while shopping malls are using forehand,” says Dr Viresh Chopra, who said it should be the other way round.

“I don’t think if your temperature is checked once a week in a mall or supermarket, you will develop serious side effects. It is about minimising your moving outside to the least minimum,” says Dr Nigel Kuriakose, SQU Hospital.

“I feel it’s better to test on hands and I always do at hand, not forehead. Although the contact is for just a few seconds, it is better to avoid frequent contact with infrared rays,” says Dr Dilip Singhvi.