Non-contact infrared thermometers for measuring body temperature in acutely ill children: a method comparison study

Van den Bruel A, Verbakel J, Wang K, Fleming S, Holtman G, Glogowska M, et al
Record ID 32017000100
Authors' objectives: Fever in young children is very common, and doctors measure a child's temperature to help them decide whether the child can be kept at home or needs to go in to hospital. National guidelines recommend measuring temperature whenever a child is ill using a digital thermometer in the armpit or an infrared thermometer in the ear. However, both of these types of thermometers can be difficult to use in unwell children who are not cooperating with the doctor. A new type of thermometer, the non-contact infrared thermometer, can measure temperature very quickly without touching the child. However, a recent review found that at present there is not enough research evidence to recommend their widespread use. In this study we aim to assess whether non-contact thermometers are as good at measuring temperature as digital armpit or infrared ear thermometers. We will also compare their ability to detect a fever and the number of times they fail to work (either because the child won't cooperate or the device doesn't work) with these standard types. We will ask parents and children what they think about the different types of thermometers, and interview some parents in more detail about this. We will see whether non-contact thermometers produce similar results when the measurement is repeated in the same child. Since some non-contact thermometers are much more expensive than others, we will assess two brands: the Thermofocus, which is relatively expensive (£125) but has been used in the majority of research on this topic, and a cheaper brand, which we will choose based on availability in the UK and price when the study is due to start. We will recruit 533 children who have come to see their GP because they have recently become unwell with a problem which was not an injury. Each child will have their temperature measured with 4 different devices. We will aim to do this before their GP appointment, so that the GP can make use of our temperature measurement when they assess the child. The findings of this study could change the practice of GPs who assess unwell children. We think our findings will also be of great interest to parents and providers of childcare to the under 5s. Our patient advisers will help us on deciding how to publicise our findings to these groups. We will publish the findings of this research in highly respected and widely read academic journals and present it at national conferences. To ensure that our results have a rapid impact we will discuss them with clinicians, health care commissioners who could fund new innovations in primary care, relevant industry partners and the groups responsible for developing new national guidance on how to assess children with fever. Professor Van den Bruel has led multiple projects exploring how best to diagnose serious infection in children and the team is experienced in delivering clinical trials and evaluations of diagnostics tests in children and adults in primary care.
Project Status: Completed
Year Published: 2020
English language abstract: An English language summary is available
Publication Type: Not Assigned
Country: England
MeSH Terms
  • Thermometry
  • Body Temperature
  • Child
  • Fever
  • Infrared Rays
  • Thermometers
Organisation Name: NIHR Health Technology Assessment programme
Contact Address: NIHR Journals Library, National Institute for Health Research, Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre, Alpha House, University of Southampton Science Park, Southampton SO16 7NS, UK
Contact Name:
Contact Email:
Copyright: Queen's Printer and Controller of HMSO
This is a bibliographic record of a published health technology assessment from a member of INAHTA or other HTA producer. No evaluation of the quality of this assessment has been made for the HTA database.