Temperature Guns Being Misused, Experts Warn

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Experts in weights and measures have revealed that there are many incidences where the non-contact infrared thermometers, commonly known as temperature guns are being misused and perhaps giving wrong temperature measurements. 

The instruments and the role of measuring the temperature of people was largely given to persons who had no formal training to use the gadgets, as a necessity, as the need for fast-screening of suspected cases of coronavirus grew. 

Earlier, the country had few temperature guns but they were not as common, with clinics and health centres using the contact thermometers to take the measurements. 

With the outbreak, most public places including hotels, churches, shopping malls, entertainment places and offices had to acquire the gadgets. A simple instruction to a user is deemed sufficient at most places.

The thermometers, like most gadgets, are accompanied by a user-manual to help the user do the right things with it.   However, expert metrologists say for one to start using the temperature gun, they should get expert explanation first.

Simon Rashana, the Chief Executive of Measurement Solutions says for example, that a manufacturer will say his temperature gun must be used at a certain range in centimeters, but that many users cannot tell between the distances.

While a distance too long can give a wrong measurement, putting the thermometer too close can have other health effects due to radiation. 

He says it is important to take the equipment to an expert for calibration before using it, and it is there that more instructions will be given or explained. 

The Uganda National Bureau of Standards, UNBS, says they have adequate standards for the different types of temperature guns, but that the public or the users have to take more care to understand how they are used. 

“I see most of the people putting out their hands for their body temperature to be taken. This is wrong. The forehead is the right body part from which the temperature reading should be taken”, says Simon Rukundo, Head of Temperature Laboratory at the UNBS. 

He emphasized that users of the temperature guns should strictly follow instructions given by the manufacturers in the user’s manual regarding how the instrument should be used, stored, cleaned and disinfected.

One of the solutions to misuse is to frequently take it for re-calibration even beyond what the manufacturer recommends, because there are many factors that affect their effectiveness. 

These include how much they are used and the temperature under which they are used, according to Rukundo. 

The UNBS urges all users of the Non-Contact Infrared Thermometers (NCIT) to ensure that they are calibrated and verified by UNBS. 

The call was made during an online stakeholder engagement with importers and traders of the Temperature Guns and it follows complaints from the public regarding the use of uncalibrated infrared thermometers that pose a gap in COVID -19 screening. 

Calibration of thermometers is the process of validating an infrared thermometer against a laboratory calibrated ‘master’ thermometer on a known temperature source, to ensure that measurements made by the NCIT are accurate. 

When a thermometer gives measurements that are below the range of temperature it can measure, then it means it has a problem, which could result from overuse, battery charge level or breakage. 

While presenting requirements of the temperature gun standards, the UNBS Standards Officer, Rodgers Numanya emphasized that labelling and marking of the temperature gun probe is important. 

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“A thermometer shall clearly indicate the units of its temperature scale. 

An IR thermometer housing shall be clearly marked with the trade name or type of the device, or both, model designation, name of the manufacturer or distributor, and lot number or serial number.” 

Numanya also added that the Probe Covers Package shall state the expiration date if the probe covers have a limited shelf life and the package shall state whether the probe cover is intended for single use or multiple use. 

UNBS urges consumers to look out for the UNBS sticker on the temperature guns used to measure their body temperatures, to confirm that they were calibrated and verified by UNBS.

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