Infrared thermometers fail the test for children with fever

FRESH evidence has cast doubt on the accuracy of tympanic and infrared skin thermometers when used to detect fever in young children.

An Italian study comparing two types of infrared skin thermometers with axillary measurement using a digital clinical thermometer found the infrared type overestimated patients’ temperature in more than half of all measurements.

The emergency department study of 356 children, aged 13 to 31 months, found infrared thermometers showed a high specificity but a low sensitivity in detecting the 49 children with fever.

The results suggested the thermometers “cannot replace traditional thermometers as gold standard for detecting fever in children”, the authors wrote in a letter to Archives of Diseases in Childhood.

The comment follows the first study of tympanic thermometers in a general paediatric population, published last year, which also found them “unacceptable”.