September 06, 2023

Can I Take My Temperature with My Phone?

Can I Take My Temperature with My Phone?

The short answer is “no”, but it is possible to track body temperature with the help of a mobile app and a connected smart thermometer

For example, our MedM Health is the world’s most connected application for fever and body temperature tracking, that can automatically collect data from 40+ Bluetooth-enabled smart thermometers of different shapes, sizes, and makers: from temp patches to earplugs. 

Why Monitoring Body Temperature Is a Big Deal?

Body temperature is one of the four main vital signs, and maintaining an optimal body temperature is essential to life. Both hyperthermia and fever in people often require further investigation and intervention. With infections being by far the most common cause of fever, diligent body temperature monitoring is important for all, but especially for people going into and coming out of surgery, for individuals receiving chemotherapy, strong anesthetics, and some other medications. Monitoring a person’s basal body temperature can help predict ovulation. And neonatal hypothermia can be detected and addressed with regular infant body temperature monitoring.

Wouldn’t it Be Nice to Just Measure Body Temperature with a Phone?

Yes it would. And we often get questions like: “How can you measure temperature with a smart phone?”, “Is there an app that takes your temperature?”, “Is using your phone to check body temperature possible?”, “Can you check your body temperature with an iPhone/Android?”. We are sad to disappoint users but must stress that there are still limitations to what the seemingly all-mighty and all-powerful smartphones can do.

But making accurate body temperature measurements still requires a thermometer. And sadly, app developers, who claim to have a “body temperature measurement app”, a “temperature thermometer online”, an “app that can take your temperature”, a “body temperature check app”, a “check fever with phone app” and such, are simply misleading users and abusing their trust.

So Do Phones Have Temperature Sensors? Can They Act as Thermometers?

Well, actually, the idea of adding thermometer functionality to smartphones is very attractive, and many phone makers have, in their constant pursuit of innovation, given it a try (Google Pixel 8 is a recent example). Modern smartphones already have thermo-sensors inside, which are used for measuring the temperature of the phone itself and preventing it from overheating. However, measuring body temperature accurately is a medical and tightly regulated task that goes beyond the purposes of a typical smartphone sensor. And - as of November 2023 - not a single smartphone has secured FDA approval for this function. 

There are several reasons why smartphones cannot reliably measure body temperature:

1) Sensor limitations: measuring body temperature accurately requires a specialized infrared thermometer with a specific focus on human body measurements. So, while body temperature can, theoretically, be measured by a phone temp sensor – the collected data would be inaccurate and misleading. 

2) Phone heat: phones make heat when they are running. This heat can mess up temperature readings because it mixes with the user’s body heat.

3) How you hold your phone matters: to accurately measure body temperature, the sensor needs to be in close contact with a specific area of the human body, such as the forehead or the ear. Users may hold smartphones at different distances, angles, and positions, leading to inconsistent and unreliable temperature readings.

4) Calibration and accuracy: clinical thermometers are carefully calibrated and apply complex math to provide reliable readings from the data collected. And smartphones lack the necessary calibration for medical or clinical application.

5) Surroundings: body temperature can be affected by various environmental factors, such as ambient temperature and humidity. Smartphones are not designed to account for these variables, which leads to inaccurate readings.

6) Safety and regulations: measuring body temperature for medical or diagnostic purposes is subject to regulatory standards and requirements. While thermometer makers have to prove to designated authorities that their devices, in fact, yeild reliable accurate measurements, smartphone makes - do not. Acting on inaccurate body temperature data is dangerous and potentially hazardous to health. So stay safe and use only certified body temperature measuring devices!

Using a Body Temperature Tracking App with a Thermometer

So, to sum up, while smartphones can do many things, accurately measuring body temperature for important purposes like healthcare is not one of them. But, in tandem with any one of the dozens supported certified Bluetooth-enabled digital thermometers, the MedM Health app can be used as a temperature logging diary. 

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