Health

Will my hot flash set off a temperature check? Your COVID-19 questions answered

We're answering your questions about the pandemic. Send yours to COVID@cbc.ca and we’ll answer as many as we can. We’ll publish a selection of answers every weekday online, and also put some questions to the experts during The National and on CBC News Network.

From sexual relationships to hot flashes, here's what you're asking us today

Experts say if you are experiencing a hot flash, it usually doesn't amount to a true fever and shouldn't impact results for a temperature check. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

We're breaking down what you need to know about the pandemic. Send us your questions via email at COVID@cbc.ca and we'll answer as many as we can. We'll publish a selection of answers every weekday on our website, and we're also putting some of your questions to the experts on the air during The National and on CBC News Network. So far we've received more than 46,000 emails from all corners of the country.

Will my hot flash set off a temperature check? 

Temperature screening is becoming more common in stores and other spaces, and at the airport it's mandatory. That has readers like Arsalan S. worried that hot flashes or just being sweaty will set off thermometers.

But experts say this isn't something people need to worry about.  

"Usually people who are a little sweaty from walking through an airport or people who are having hot flashes don't actually mount a true fever," said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, infectious disease specialist with University Health Network.

This means: if you're experiencing some sort of perspiration or hot flashes, a temperature check shouldn't suggest you have a fever — unless you actually do.  

Typically, a fever or high temperature is a sign that your body is fighting off some type of bacterial or viral infection. 

That said, many people with COVID-19 infections will not have a fever and may even be asymptomatic. 

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Bogoch said the use of temperature checks is for "optics," since their usefulness in detecting COVID-19 is "actually pretty poor." 

"For [temperature checks] to work, you have to have a fever at the right place, at the right time, detected with the right instrument," he said. "They may catch a case now and again. But it's really not the most effective way of detecting COVID-19.

Not to mention — the potential risk of exposure to or from the person doing the screening.

Can you get the virus from sex?

For months Canadians have been warned about the dangers of getting too close to others. But that hasn't stopped some people, like Michael K., from wondering if you can catch the virus from having sex.

As of right now, doctors do not believe the virus can be transmitted through semen or genital intercourse. 

"We don't think that is a main route of transmission," said Dr. Lisa Barrett, a professor at Dalhousie's medical school and an infectious disease researcher.

There have been some cases where the virus was found in collected semen, said Barrett, but experts aren't sure if the virus is viable and would be able to transmit infection.

The entrance to the Oakridge COVID-19 assessment centre in London, Ont. (Travis Dolynny/CBC)

Doctors warn the real risk comes from sex requiring people to get really close. According to current evidence, the virus mainly spreads through droplets that we spew as we talk, cough, sneeze and breathe. 

"For most of us, [sex] will include at least two respiratory tracts being involved in close contact, meaning that there is often very close contact between one nose and mouth and another nose and mouth," explains Barrett. 

Respirologist Dr. Samir Gupta agreed. "The problem with sex is not so much the sex itself as it is the close contact," he said.

"So unfortunately sex is not part of the recommended quarantine routine."

That said, health experts recognize that abstinence may not be realistic. Instead, health officials in New York City have released guidelines on how to have safer sex during COVID-19. Among other things, they suggest:

  • Only having sex with people close to you.

  • Avoiding kissing anyone who is not part of your small circle.

  • Skipping sex if you or your partner are not feeling well.

  • Wear a mask.

Infectious diseases expert and deputy commissioner at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, discussed ways of having sexual relationships during the pandemic on a recent episode of CBC's The Dose with Dr. Brian Goldman.

Can COVID-19 spread through sweat?

The answer is a hard no from our experts. 

"There is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 can be transmitted through sweat or perspiration," said Dr. Mark Downing, infectious disease physician at St. Joseph's Health Centre in Toronto. "This is consistent with what we know about other respiratory viruses."

Dr. Steve Theriault, a virologist specializing in infectious diseases in Winnipeg, agrees. "It wouldn't make sense for a respiratory virus to be transmitted this way."


Saturday we answered questions about social bubbles and circles.

Keep your questions coming by emailing us at COVID@cbc.ca.

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