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FDA warns about improper use of thermal imaging systems to take worker, visitor temps

thermal camera
Photo: eucyln/iStockphoto

Washington — Improper use of thermal imaging systems can result in inaccurate temperature readings, the Food and Drug Administration is warning health care providers, consumers and other users.

Also known as telethermographic systems, infrared thermographs, thermal cameras or “fever cameras,” thermal imaging systems are designed to measure a person’s body temperature. However, improper use can occur “due to a variety of factors,” FDA says in a recent press release.

Risks of improper use include a device falsely measuring an elevated body temperature and incorrectly detecting a normal body temperature.

“These risks are more likely to be present where thermal imaging systems scan multiple individuals simultaneously,” says the agency, which directs users to its website for recommendations.

Additionally, FDA says it’s aware of some firms that are marketing “unapproved, uncleared and unauthorized” thermal imaging devices and has sent warning letters to the offending companies. The letters are available on the agency’s Fraudulent Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Products page.


To report an issue with a thermal imaging device, the FDA’s MedWatch Voluntary Reporting Form is available on the agency’s website.

“The FDA is aware that thermal imaging systems can be used as a way to detect temperature as part of a larger approach to COVID-19 risk management, such as in combination with mask wearing, social distancing and handwashing, to provide initial temperature assessments or triage individuals for elevated temperatures in public areas such as airports, grocery stores, offices and schools,” the agency says. “When designed and used correctly, thermal imaging systems have been shown to accurately measure someone’s surface skin temperature.”

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