Temperature Check: When and How To Take One To Track Illness

A man with the towel on the forehead and holding thermometer | Feature | Temperature Check: When and How To Take One To Track Illness
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Everything You Need to Know About Temperature Checks

Why Conduct Temperature Checks?

A person’s body temperature can serve as a medical ‘red flag.’ When someone’s body temp raises, it could mean that their body is fighting an infection. 

Doctors also use body temperature as an indication of the effectiveness of specific treatments. If body temperature returns to normal after treatment is administered, it’s proof that the treatment may be working. 

Temperature checks are becoming more common these days because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A coronavirus infection can lead to a variety of symptoms, but a fever is one of the most common symptoms

A temperature check is an inexpensive and quick way to screen people for possible coronavirus infection. However, it’s important to remember that having a fever doesn’t automatically mean that you have the coronavirus. 

As the pandemic continues, temperature checks will likely become a part of the new normal. Office buildings and retail stores in your community may begin requiring temperature checks upon entry, so it’s important to understand how they’re conducted and what the readings could mean. 

When Should You Check Your Temperature?

Your body temperature can vary throughout the day, so it’s essential to keep this in mind when you’re checking your temperature. Body temperature tends to be lower in the morning and can rise in the afternoon. 

It can even rise by as much as 1 degree Fahrenheit. So it’s important to keep this in mind if you’re tracking your temperature. 

Tip: Don’t rely on a single temperature reading. If you can, check and record your temperature at regular intervals during the day. 

Which Thermometer Should You Use?

A woman holding a thermometer in the armpit | Which Thermometer Should You Use? | Temperature Check: When and How To Take One To Track Illness

Different types of thermometers can measure body temperature from different sites. Most doctors will choose from these sites:

  • Under the tongue (oral method)
  • Forehead (temporal method)
  • Ear (tympanic method)
  • Anus (rectal method)
  • Armpit (axillary method) 

Some thermometers can be used on different sites, while others are site-specific. Here are some common types of thermometers:

  • Digital stick thermometers – works with oral, axillary, and rectal methods. 
  • Infrared thermometers – can work with the tympanic or temporal methods. Some infrared thermometers can do both, while others can only measure temperature from one site. It uses the radiation your body emits to estimate your body’s core temperature. 
  • No-touch thermometers – a type of infrared thermometer that does not require any contact. No-touch thermometers usually use the temporal method. 

Infrared thermometers are generally easier to use than digital stick thermometers because they can give you a body temperature reading quicker. This comes in hand when you’re doing temperature checks with young children. 

Readings can be slightly different depending on the site and type of thermometer. Research shows that rectal temperature readings can be 0.5-0.7 degrees higher than oral temperature readings. 

Axillary temperature readings can also be 1 degree higher than oral temperature readings. From all of these methods, the axillary process offers the least accurate readings. 

Rectal and tympanic methods provide the closest approximation of core body temperature, but it may not always be practical (especially when screening COVID-19). If the thermometer will be used on different people, no-touch thermometers or scanners are preferable to avoid further COVID-19 transmission. 

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How Do You Check Your Temperature?

Temperature check steps will vary depending on the type of thermometer you use. Each thermometer comes with instructions on how to get the most accurate readings. 

Some thermometers can give you a reading in a few seconds, while others require some time. Here are some general guidelines that may come in handy:

  • A variety of activities and environmental factors can impact body temperature (more on this below), so it’s best to give your body 15-30 minutes to adjust to its natural state before checking your temperature. 
  • No-touch thermometers need to be within a few millimeters of the site.
  • Remove any devices or clothing that may block the thermometer from the site. For example, remove your hearing aid for 15-30 minutes before using an infrared ear thermometer. Request for alternative methods if it’s difficult to remove. 

There also are individual differences when it comes to core body temperature, so it’s helpful if you know your usual range. Again, if you’re tracking your temperature as a possible symptom of the coronavirus, it’s best to check a few times each day rather than rely on a single reading. 

What Other Factors Affect Your Body Temperature?

Apart from fighting off an infection, other factors can influence your body temperature. Here are some of them:

Some of these factors can temporarily cause a spike in body temperature and may lead to a less accurate reading. So try to be mindful of these when you’re checking your temperature. 

What Do Temperature Readings Mean?

Woman have a cold and high fever while checking body temperature by using digital thermometer | What Do Temperature Readings Mean? | Temperature Check: When and How To Take One To Track Illness

The average normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. However, a recent study reports that the average body temperature of adults in the United States is 98.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

These figures are just averages, though. So your baseline temperature may be slightly different.

Normal body temperature can range from 97-99 degrees Fahrenheit. In general, a fever entails a temperature of at least 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. 

When it comes to COVID-19, though, the CDC recommends screening for subjective fevers. A subjective fever will have a lower threshold of 100.0 degrees Fahrenheit. 

So if individuals present with a subjective fever, they require further screening for COVID-19. Remember, having a fever does not automatically mean you have the coronavirus. 

It’s also important to remember that the absence of a fever does not mean that you don’t have COVID-19. It’s possible to be asymptomatic even if you have the coronavirus. 

What Should You Do If You Get a High-Temperature Reading?

It may be frustrating to be asked to go home because a temperature check shows that you have a subjective fever. When it comes to COVID-19, though, it’s better to be cautious to avoid further transmission

If a temperature check shows that you have a subjective fever, it’s best to stay home and contact your doctor. Fortunately, you don’t have to leave your house to see your doctor. 

With StreamMD, you can get screened by a doctor for COVID-19 from the comfort of your own home. It’s important to talk to a doctor because they can assess you for other COVID-19 symptoms and determine if further testing is necessary. 

Monitoring your health is an important way to help curb COVID-19 transmissions. Temperature checks are a quick and easy way to screen for COVID-19, but they are not enough for a diagnosis. If you believe that you’re at risk for COVID-19, it’s essential to stay at home and contact a health professional for further screening.

How do you monitor your health during this pandemic? Share your tips with us below. 

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