Viral whatsapp scaremongering

The below quote came through whatsapp. It turns up frequently and it irritates me no end. But I lost my cool when it finally turned up in a doctors group I’m unfortunate enough to be part of. Imagine, if doctors are forwarding this, imagine how bad the scaremongering is?

“Infrared thermometers, which are held near the forehead to scan body temperature without direct contact, point an infrared light directly at the brain’s pineal gland, exposing it to harmful radiation.Infrared thermometers shouldn’t be pointed at the forehead to measure the temperature.Instead, the device can be pointed at the wrist or elbow fold to measure the body temperature. This is accurate as well as less harmful.”

Whatsapp lets us communicate instantly to people on the other side of the world. We’ve seen how useful it was during disasters. We’ve seen how much good it could do in bringing people together. This is the flip side.

An infrared thermometer doesn’t emit infrared. It recieves infra red.The actual source of infra red radiation is any warm body. In this case, the person’s forehead.
Let’s assume that the thermometer does emit infrared “radiation” (cue spooky music), it can’t emit enough radiation to reach deep enough into this person’s thick skull to reach the pineal gland.
Let’s go one step further and assume that the infra red does reach the pineal gland. It’ll heat it up a little. Not enough to make a difference. You’ll need an industrial strength laser for that. Not a cheap Chinese handheld that’s powered by AA batteries

And btw, infrared thermometers are inaccurate compared to a standard rectal thermometer. It’s extremely convenient that we have IR thermometers during this pandemic. However, the IR thermometers are calibrated for use in a particular way. Usually forehead, at a specified distance.

The broader point is this-Response to threat.
In a complex system like a human body which responds to the minutest external influence,  everything can be claimed as affecting health and sickness. And it does! Theoretically. But, is the effect strong enough to make a difference? That’s the main question.

The second question is, will the body passively let any random minute external factor destroy it with such ease? If that was the case, humans would have gone extinct as soon as they evolved. We’re more resilient than we think we are. Falling prey to such silly stories will not do any good.
If you live in fear, you’ll just set up a chronic stress response that is proven to destroy your health and immunity. That’s more likely than the thermometer destroying your pineal gland. FFS.

We’ve got to weigh risks and benefits before making decisions. If you respond to every perceived threat with DEFCON 5, it gets expensive and destructive.

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