Clinical accuracy of a non-contact infrared skin thermometer in paediatric practice

Child Care Health Dev. 2012 Jul;38(4):471-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2214.2011.01264.x. Epub 2011 Jun 8.


Background: Rectal thermometry is considered the most reliable method for measuring the temperature in the paediatric population. Recently, a new non-contact skin infrared thermometer for children was introduced in the market with excellent acceptance by parents.

Methods: A prospective, analytical, cross-sectional study was designed in order to assess the effectiveness of the infrared non-contact thermometer (Thermofocus) in comparison with two other known methods used to measure body temperature. Children aged 1 to 48 months were included from the emergency room and inpatient unit. All patients selected were assessed with three different thermometers: (1) non-contact infrared thermometer (Thermofocus); (2) temporal artery thermometer (Exergen); and (3) rectal glass mercury thermometer.

Results: Four hundred and thirty-four patients were eligible to complete the study. One hundred and sixty-seven were identified with fever. The mean age of the patients studied was 14.6 ± 10.7 months. Both devices were strongly correlated with the rectal temperature: r = 0.950 for Exergen and r = 0.952 for Thermofocus. The mean difference in temperature between the rectal temperature and the non-contact thermometer was 0.029 ± 0.01 °C (P < 0.001), while the mean difference between the temporal artery thermometer and the rectal temperature was -0.20 ± 0.27 °C (P < 0.001). The sensitivity and specificity for the non-contact thermometer is 97%. The negative predictive value is 99%, which is especially important to rule out fever and avoid unnecessary laboratory work-up.

Conclusions: The non-contact infrared thermometer is a reliable, comfortable and accurate option for measurement of temperature and is very useful for the screening of fever in the paediatric population. More studies are recommended to support the evidence found in this study and compare its accuracy with more complex devices.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Body Temperature
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Equipment Design
  • Female
  • Fever / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Rectum / physiology
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Skin Temperature
  • Temporal Arteries / physiology
  • Thermography / instrumentation*
  • Thermography / methods
  • Thermometers*