Why Is My Child’s Temperature Being Scanned on The Wrist Instead of The Forehead?

Temperature checks are part of the new pandemic way of life throughout the country, with schools, museums and attractions taking temperatures for all those entering the building. At least one school district, Cumberland Valley, is conducting temperatures checks on a location you may not expect -- on the wrist.

Wrist temperature scanners deploy the same infrared technology that the forehead scanners use to detect what one’s temperature is. The technology means that temperatures can be checked without having to come into contact with the skin. While it may seem different, Dr. Chris DeFlitch, the chief medical information officer at Penn State Health, says there’s no reason to be concerned.

“You can check a temperature in a number of different ways,” he said.

And wrist placement makes sense too.

“If you think about it, there’s a lot of blood vessels that are close to the surface,” DeFlitch said. “You’ll give a better assessment of what a temperature is if it’s around an artery.”

Those concerned about infrared exposure to the forehead need not be. False claims have circulated social media stating that infrared thermometers pointed at the forehead can expose the brain to radiation, specifically the pineal gland. This isn’t true.

Infrared thermometers don’t emit radiation and do not transmit wavelengths into the body, they just sense heat emitted by the body. The director of neuroradiology at Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Haris Sair, told the Associated Press that these thermometers pose no risk to the pineal gland at all. The only danger from the forehead thermometers can come from the lasers used to help them target the right spots, which should not be looked at directly as they could cause harm to the eyes.

Wrist temperatures aren’t particularly better or worse than forehead ones. The devices used to check each should be FDA approved, which means they fit guidelines for accuracy and safety.