Is thermometer gun a threat to our brain?

A recent viral video shows a man speaking about the harmful effect of the infrared thermometer guns, which are being used all over the world to monitor temperature amid the coronavirus outbreak. The infrared thermometer gun is commonly used in public spaces and offices on people before entering the premises. And, since the gun is pointed at the forehead to take the temperature, the person claimed it can damage the pineal gland in the brain.

But can it? Scientists and doctors do not know for sure yet. Since the coronavirus outbreak, health experts says many false claims have surfaced online. But, till there are specific studies that claim or prove otherwise, it is hard to say whether the infrared thermometer gun can affect the human brain.

Chennai-based scientist Dr S Rangnathan said there is no such evidence to show that the pineal glands are being damaged because of the infrared thermometer. “On a daily basis we come across many forms of radiation, but it doesn’t mean it will affect any part of the body or glands. This infrared thermometer is used to avoid contact with people so that the virus doesn't spread. Moreover, the red light emitted from the thermometer is for a few seconds and that cannot damage the pineal glands,” he said. “Overexposure to infrared radiation can cause health problems such as skin burns and eye damage, but this is not an issue with infrared thermometers,” Dr Rangnathan added.

Suresh Kakani, Additional Municipal Commissioner, BMC said they have not come across a case where a person's pineal gland was affected due to the use of an infrared thermometer.

"It is designed to detect and absorb heat in the form of infrared rays emitted from the human body and convert it into electricity. The electronic circuit within the thermometer processes the electrical signal to determine the temperature and display the reading on a screen. Since infrared thermometers do not emit harmful radiations, it is safe to use," a health expert said.

So far the thermometer gun has been commonly used on the forehead. Though the video claims using it on the wrist is more effect, health experts say the temperature will defer on different body parts. There is no right way to use it, but pointing it on the forehead is a commonly practised by people all over the world.

What is pineal gland?

The pineal gland is a small endocrine gland in the brain. It produces melatonin, al serotonin-derived hormone which modulates sleep patterns in both circadian and seasonal cycles. The pineal gland also plays an important role in the regulation of female hormone levels and may affect fertility and menstrual cycle.

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