Coronavirus symptoms: Best way to use thermometers to detect COVID-19 revealed by doctor

Taking questions from BBC Radio 5 Live listeners, virologist Dr Chris Smith claimed the best way to measure your temperature to find out if you have coronavirus symptoms is to use thermometers designed to read the infrared heat in your ears. He explained how all devices will have a degree of inaccuracy but that even if only one ear registers a higher temperature than the other, that individual is most likely to be experiencing a fever. He said: “The bottom line is that temperatures can be variable, the device that you’re using, it depends how well they’ve been calibrated, but for some of them there is always a degree of inaccuracy.

“But if at least one ear is recording a raised temperatures, that’s probably real. And he/she probably does have a fever.

“Forehead monitors are less reliable. The way we measure temperatures accurately in hospitals is with the devices that go in the ear.

“And they actually have an infrared probe which is sensitive to infrared ears heat and they record that from the eardrum because that’s a good proxy mark of your core body temperature.

“And so that I would rely on. If you have one registration of 38C, he probably does have a temperature. And you’re probably just missing seeing the right target with the other ear.

“Maybe he’s got a slightly funny ear shape and you’re not quite seeing the eardrum or whatever the machine is trying to read the temperature from.

“So you’re getting a misleading low one.”

The coronavirus epidemic in the United Kingdom is showing signs of slowing and antibody tests could be ready in days, Neil Ferguson, a professor of mathematical biology at Imperial College London, said on Monday.

“We think the epidemic is just about slowing in the UK right now,” Professor Ferguson told BBC radio.

Britain, which has the world’s fifth-largest economy, initially took an approach to contain the spread of the disease that was modest in comparison to European countries such as Italy.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed stringent controls after projections showed a quarter of a million people could die.


Mr Johnson on Friday became the first leader of a major power to announce a positive test result for coronavirus. He is self-isolating in Downing Street.

Professor Ferguson said a third or even 40 percent of people do not get any symptoms. He said perhaps 2 percent to 3 percent of the United Kingdom’s population had been infected.

But Professor Ferguson cautioned that the data was not good enough to make firm extrapolations.

He said antibody tests were in the final stage of validation right now and could be hopefully ready to use in “days rather than weeks”.

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Health officials said on Sunday that figures showed that 1,228 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) had died. As of 0800 GMT on March 29, a total of 127,737 people in the UK have been tested, of which 108,215 were confirmed negative and 19,522 were confirmed positive.

When asked whether the antibody test would be ready in days, junior health minister Helen Whately told BBC radio: “I am not going to confirm when that’s going to arrive.”

Britain has begun rolling out antigen tests – which are different to antibody tests – for healthcare workers but the numbers being tested are far below the levels of Germany, Europe’s largest economy.

Ms Whately said there was capacity to have 10,000 people a day tested, though 7,000 were tested on Saturday or Sunday.

She said the Government hoped to get to 25,000 tests per day over the next few weeks.

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