Point thermo gun at pupil’s hand not head

A teacher checks a pupils temperature at Nyamachaki Primary School in Nyeri.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Some experts say the non-contact infra-red thermometer is not a shooting device emitting radiation.
  • Amid the unfolding global coronavirus scare, however, this has somehow become a ‘new normal’ at airports.

As officials in schools scramble to receive students reporting this week, they are also supposed to measure every learner’s temperature to detect Covid-19. They will mostly use a thermo gun, which they will aim at the student’s forehead and take the reading.

However, some researchers have argued that pointing the non-contact infra-red thermometer at the forehead is dangerous as it has the shape of a gun. If you hold a gun to someone’s head, no matter how benign the instrument may be, it elicits the feeling of insecurity. The history of violence associated with this type of handheld device in the public imagination is so established that it’s hard to take a pistol-like object aimed at humans casually.

Amid the unfolding global coronavirus scare, however, this has somehow become a ‘new normal’ at airports, cafes, schools, hotels, offices and various checkpoints everywhere. Along with the face mask, it has become the iconic design object of the coronavirus epidemic.

Some experts say the non-contact infra-red thermometer is not a shooting device emitting radiation. It is designed to detect and absorb heat in the form of infra-red rays emitted from the human body and convert it into electricity. It can measure someone’s surface temperature without needing to touch them, thus eliminating contamination risk — at least in theory.

But other medical experts say since infra-red thermometers do not emit harmful radiation, it is safe to use and there is no scientific evidence that it can harm one’s brain. Others say the close distance required to properly take a person’s temperature poses the risk of spreading disease between the two parties.

Let us not take chances, however. School administrators should play it safe and measure the students’ temperature not by pointing the thermo gun at the forehead but the hand and let the one doing it wear protectives gear.


Ms Onjoro is a PhD student Mount Kenya University. onjoroveronica@yahoo.com.