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Thermal Imaging for Fever Detection

Wednesday Feb 23rd, 2022

At a time when citizens around the globe are aching to return to normal, finding methods of minimizing the spread of Covid-19 is essential. Though vaccines have certainly done their part to keep us safe, rising numbers of breakthrough cases make it clear that they can’t be our only line of defense. Detecting fevers–one of the most common symptoms of the virus–is a quick and easy way to limit unknown exposure. To detect fevers quickly and safely, organizational decision-makers across the United States are investing in fever detection technology.

While fever detectors can’t diagnose an illness, they’re an essential first line of defense for public-facing institutions that want to help their guests stay healthy. In this post, TherCam, a leader in infrared imaging and detection, explores the practical uses of thermal imaging for fever detection and how to leverage it to keep our communities safe.

How Does Thermal Imaging Detect Fevers?

Thermal detectors, also known as thermal imaging sensors, are microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) that measure the surface temperature of the object in front of them by picking up on low-wave infrared electromagnetic radiation (LWIR). Though invisible to the human eye, LWIR is present in everything, from people and animals to mechanical equipment and structures.

Thermal imaging cameras, also called thermographic cameras, are contactless devices that detect an object’s LWIR and produce a thermal image for analysis (commonly referred to as thermal imaging). In the case of detecting fevers, camera operators are monitoring skin temperature, typically targeting the forehead and eyes.

thermal imaging camera scanning woman for fever detection

How Do People Use Thermal Imaging Cameras?

Though thermal imaging cameras became more widely used after the onset of Covid-19, their practical application for public health makes them useful in a variety of settings. Security teams regularly use thermal imaging cameras at the entry points of:

  • Airports
  • Border Stations
  • Hospitals & Nursing Homes
  • Office Buildings
  • School and Universities
  • Train stations

Across the United States, Covid-related restrictions on public spaces and gatherings have eased up significantly, and have even been entirely lifted in some areas. But with the hyper-contagious Omicron variant, organizational decision-makers are deploying thermal cameras at the entryways of their buildings, offices, hospitals, etc. By doing so, they create a helpful prescreening measure that can drastically reduce the spread of Omicron and other variants.

These cameras will help detect when someone has a fever, minimize the chance of them entering a premise with an illness, and direct them to receive proper medical care. While these cameras are extremely precise, it’s important to remember that they’re only measuring skin temperature. They don’t definitively determine if someone has Covid-19 or a fever. For that reason, it’s important to retest individuals with a medical-grade thermometer after the thermal imaging system detects a raised temperature.

How are Businesses and Organizations Setting Up Fever Detection?

Despite operational differences between businesses, keeping the public safe is a priority across industries. To that end, many places are opting to use thermal imaging cameras at the entrance of their buildings. For instance, many colleges and universities are ramping up their public health best practices by adding fever detection technology to the entries of their dorms, cafeterias, and classrooms. Large corporate campuses are following suit with educational institutions, screening employees at the entrances of each building.

Healthcare facilities also use fever detection technology to limit patient and staff exposure to Covid-19. This protection is critical, especially when the healthcare workforce is extremely limited and many patients face health issues.

Travel hubs such as airports, train stations, and international borders have started implementing fever screening processes as well. This protection could help minimize the global spread of Covid-19 and other illnesses.

In nearly every industry, public and private organizations have begun implementing thermal imaging into their health and safety protocols. Even casinos, concert venues, shopping malls, and grocery stores see the benefits. 

Benefits of Using Thermal Imaging Cameras for Fever Detection

Thermal imaging cameras are incredibly helpful when determining if someone has an elevated temperature. Therefore, it’s an important risk-management tool, particularly during a pandemic. Though there are many benefits of using this kind of technology for fever detection, some of the most important include: 

  • Limiting physical contact with a potentially sick person
  • Eliminating the need to remove masks
  • Decreasing visitor intake times
  • Minimizing time in close proximity

However, when security teams misuse thermal imaging cameras, they can lead to inaccurate temperatures, which of course, can have a cascading negative effect.woman being scanned for fever at airport

Limitations of Thermal Imaging Cameras

It’s important to note that thermal imaging cameras have some limitations. First, various external factors could cause people to have higher body temperatures that indicate sickness. Therefore, a high-temperature reading with a thermal camera will likely still require a separate thermometer screening.

It’s also essential to properly prepare the environment where thermal cameras are being used. There should be no reflective backgrounds such as mirrors or glass, either of which may cause the camera to pick up on reflected infrared radiation. Additionally, rooms with heavy drafts, intense sunlight, or powerful radiators can make thermal imaging cameras less accurate due to temperature changes.

Finally, specific areas of the face deliver the most accurate temperature readings. For that reason, it's critical to use facial recognition technology equipment so that cameras can detect temperatures from the eye's inner canthus. The inner canthus is where a person's nose meets the upper and lower eyelids. Facial recognition will result in a more accurate reading, thus ensuring an effective screening measure.fever detector and covid facemask

Reach out to TherCam

Using thermal images can be a strong first line of defense against the spread of Covid-19 and other illnesses. However, it's critical that the person handling the fever detection technology is properly trained, follows all manufacturer's instructions, and knows how to properly set up the system and environment. If you're ready to invest in a better line of protection, reach out to TherCam today or browse our fever detection products.

*For additional best practices in setting up your fever detection system, please visit the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for details on proper installation.