False security: Many schools and businesses rely on temperature tests but COVID often not linked to fever

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Credit: Remo Casilli/Reuters

[E]xperts and medical groups increasingly say that [temperature testing] isn’t a good gauge of Covid-19 as many infected children and adults don’t get fevers. Furthermore, variability in individual temperatures as well as questions about the accuracy of body-temperature scanners and infrared contact-free thermometers put such checks at risk of potential error.

A U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention study of nearly 300 children with Covid-19 found that 56% had a fever. Its current guidance for school reopenings recommends against symptom screening for Covid-19. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ interim guidance on school reopenings similarly doesn’t recommend universal temperature checks.

“Thinking that you have done enough by simply screening a child for a temperature is one of those things that we felt created potentially a false sense of security for schools,” says Nathaniel Beers, a pediatrician at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, who co-chaired the committee that drafted the guidance.

Related article:  Viewpoint: ‘It’s not a political statement’ – Former FDA chief Scott Gottlieb calls for nationwide mask mandate

Doctors say baseline temperature varies depending on age, gender and other factors. Temperatures also fluctuate throughout the day based on a person’s circadian rhythm.

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Dr. [Beth] Gottlieb says she has seen more parents coming in with children who have consistent low-grade fevers. If a child is otherwise normal and happy she advises parents to stop taking their temperature. “This may be their normal body temperature based on the rhythm of the day,” she says.

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