Several countries, including India, are debating how many people have died as a result of COVID-19. This is an important topic, of course. All humans are valuable, and we should strive to prevent infection using whatever tools we have. If they do get exposed to an infection, we want to detect this as quickly as possible, thus maximizing their chances of survival. 

The fact that fever is an important determinant of whether a person is infected is well known by doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. If a virus has been able to infiltrate a person’s body, the immune system will kick in. A person’s body temperature will rise very soon after they have been infected. Therefore, we have always maintained that fever is a crucial early warning system for COVID-19 infections.

Keeping track of our body temperature on a regular basis is therefore very important. You might ask, what does that mean: regular. Ideally, you should measure twice daily, once in the early morning hours and once at the end of the day. Thus, we can ensure that the circadian cycle of humans is taken into account. Our body temperature can vary by up to 0,9 oC during the day. As a result, our body temperature is 0,9 oC higher in the evening than in the morning. It is a perfectly normal cycle, but the difference is very noticeable. In the evening, what may have been a normal temperature in the morning might have become a raised temperature or even a fever. Keeping this in mind, we can detect fevers very quickly if we measure ourselves and our family members twice a day.

However, we can do more. As soon as people in our area have tested positive for COVID-19, we should begin to measure our body temperature more frequently. Particularly when there are people in our vicinity who have fragile health. We have heard of cases where a prematurely born baby lived in a situation where an infection with COVID-19 was difficult to avoid. Parents of this young child decided to measure the temperature of their child every 30 minutes. As a result, they were able to monitor the health of their child very effectively and almost in real time. Especially for those in fragile health, this is a great way to protect them. 

Using a rectal thermometer or an in-ear thermometer to measure an infant, a child, or an already fragile adult every 30 minutes is not easy. That would be physically uncomfortable (rectal) or even painful and potentially damaging to the ear canal (ear thermometer). There is more to thermometers than accuracy alone. Easy of use and comfort are very important as well. Especially now that there are thermometers that can be swiped gently across the forehead to determine the body temperature. These temporal artery thermometers are as accurate as a rectal thermometer, but much more comfortable. Due to its ease of use (a gentle swipe across the forehead) and the fact that it is non-invasive (with the thermometer we do not need to enter the body) and we do not have to reposition a child we can even measure their temperature while they are asleep. This is crucial if we want to measure their body temperature frequently.

It is obviously very important to discuss the actual death toll of COVID-19. However, no matter what the actual numbers are, it is even more important to do everything we can to prevent people from becoming infected. When they do become infected unexpectedly, we would like to know about it as soon as possible. In this way, treatment can be started as soon as possible and we can take measures like quarantine to prevent the spread of the virus.