In recent years, outbreaks of highly contagious diseases, like the Ebola virus, have motivated vigorous efforts to screen travelers entering the United States, especially at airports. Screening involves monitoring the body temperature of entering travelers, and blocking entry of those showing a fever, indicating a potential infection. Typically, screening is performed using commercially available non-contact infrared thermometers (NCITs). These thermometers require specific use protocols (e.g., working distances) to provide accurate results, which may not be followed by inspectors reluctant to approach potentially contagious travelers. Furthermore, the NCITs’ accuracy is based on an assumption that the NCIT readings from a forehead will predict the body core temperatures using a simple common one-size-fits-all correction offset. Unfortunately, the temperature detected on the forehead surface by an NCIT may not represent the true body core temperature, due to the changing conditions of the external environment and/or surface conditions of the forehead skin. It is not clear whether the correction factor is able to adjust to the thermal environment, or whether the surface condition of the forehead, including sweat and skin tone, affects the NCIT readings.
Before a clinical study is conducted to understand the differences between the forehead temperatures and the body core temperatures, a computational model to simulate temperature distribution inside and on the surface of the body is a cost-effective way to identify factors that influence the temperatures and to study the reasons for their deviations. The objectives of this study were to 1) develop a numerical whole-body model and perform computational heat transfer simulations of different body geometries and 2) perform parametric studies to evaluate the effect of environmental factors, such as air temperature and heat transfer coefficient, on the differences between the forehead temperature and body core temperature. This data can be used to evaluate correction factors or needed to use the measured forehead temperature to predict the body core temperature.