After just a few months of covid-19, the air travel industry has dramatically and irrevocably been altered. And the rules for air travel will continue to change as we learn more about covid-19 and its affect on the well being of otherwise healthy humans. One of the most prevalent and emerging practices being implemented by businesses, US airports and governments, is the use of thermal body scanning to identify people with a fever who may be sick or about to be sick.

While having your temperature taken in an airport is not a big deal, what happens if you have a fever? Will you be allowed to board your flight? Are you at risk of being quarantined? Who covers the cost of delays and the expenses for medical treatment if needed? This is the reason travelers need to learn about fever and how it affects their body before they get to the airport. What is normal for you? What does a fever feel like? Should you suppress your fever with medication? 

It's been reported that passengers who have a body temperature of 100.4F or higher will "be referred to the CDC." (whatever that means!) But therei's no industry standard for when and how to take the body temperature, let alone what can, or should be done, if it's elevated. Here's where having advance information about your temperature could save you time and possibly money if you're at risk of being delayed. Traveling with your own thermometer makes perfect sense. Add it to your travel kit with extra masks and sanitizers.

What you need to know about fever:

  • 98.6F/38C is considered normal body temperature in a healthy adult, but can vary in individuals
  • body temperature varies throughout the day and is typically lower in the morning and higher in the afternoon
  • fever (elevated body temperature) may not stay at a constant temperature
  • your body temperature can fluctuate according to your age, your gender, and even if you tell a lie! 97-99F is in the range of normal 
  • older people naturally have a lower body temperature due to aging and may run a fever without knowing it
  • body temperature of 103F/39.4C or higher could be a sign of serious illness and you should contact your doctor or seek advice from a medical professional
  • any signs of fever in infants or toddlers should be evalutated by a medical professional
  • although parents will sometimes wait a day to two if fever is present in older children, its wise to seek medical advice immediatley if you have travel plans

What are some of the normal causes of fever:

  • respiratory infections including flu and pneumonia
  • viruses including covid-19
  • physical injuries may have underlying infections
  • childhood immunizations
  • teething
  • severe sunburn
  • food poisoning
  • spicy food (hot peppers can raise core temperature of the body)
  • inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis

Guidelines for preparing to travel by air:

  • before you travel, track your normal body temperature at different times of the day and under various circumstances, like being in a hot room or after drinking a hot beverage. (Some very creative high school students made Youtube videos to teach high school students how to fake a fever to get out of school. Exposing the business end of the digital thermometer to friction or hot water are some of the techniques. If you get a reading indicating you have a fever, check it again.)
  • travel with a thermometer and take your temperature twice the day before you are scheduled to fly, and on the morning of your flight. Not all airports and airlines are mandating thermal scanning to determine if passengers have fever prior to boarding. But even if your airport is not among those who scan passengers for body temperature, you may have stopovers at other airports where the procedure is in place. 
  • does your travel insurance cover interruptions or delays due to fever/sickness on the day of travel? Read the fine print before you choose your policy.
  • visit airport and airline websites to get advance information about how they plan to handle passengers who present with a fever or illness on the day of scheduled travel

How to take your temperature:

  • old-fashioned "shake-down" thermometers contain mercury and I am guessing that they are prohibited on planes for that reason. The tube is made of glass and can be broken. I don't advise traveling with one of these implements. 
  • digital thermomenters measure body temperature by mouth, under the arm, or rectally. It may take up to a minute to get a reading. Temperatures taken under the armpit are the most convenient, but you need to know that the result is 1 degree F lower than if taken orally, and should be adjusted, (97F under the arm would be equivalent to 98F oral)
  • no-contact thermal scanners are the same kind of devices used in public settings. Smart infrared technology gives an instant reading

Tracking our body temperatures is an easy practice for travelers (and anyone who wants to enter their hair salon!) Just like we learned how to wear face masks and wash our hands, we can learn how to monitor our body temperatures and use the information to prevent last minute delays and prepare for safe travel. 

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Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and anyone who has a fever or questions about their health should consult their physician or seek the service of a licensed medical professional