The Best Baby Thermometer
When you have a sick little one at home you want to know that you have the very best baby thermometer available to obtain an accurate temperature reading. You will also want to be sure you are using the least invasive method possible, as well as making sure to use the correct thermometer for the age of your child. With so many types of thermometers on the market, it can get very confusing. I’m here to help you navigate through all the baby thermometer reviews and make the very best choice for your family.
What are the different types of thermometers?
- Digital thermometers- While tympanic and temporal artery thermometers are also digital, this term is usually used to describe a basic thermometer that is used orally or rectally.
- Tympanic or ear thermometers- These thermometers are inserted into the ear canal for a quick temperature reading.
- Forehead thermometer- This term can be used to describe either a forehead scanner, which does not touch your child, or a temporal artery thermometer, which generally requires contact with your child’s forehead.
- Paci thermometer- Pacifier thermometers are used exactly like a pacifier to obtain an oral temperature reading. I am not a fan of paci thermometers. I will discuss why below.
- Basic oral/rectal thermometer- This is a non-digital thermometer than can be used orally, axillary, or rectally. We used to refer to these as mercury thermometers, but mercury is no longer used due to safety concerns.
- Forehead strips- these are strips that stick to your baby’s forehead to provide an approximate temperature. Forehead strips are not an accurate way to take your child’s temperature.
Which type of thermometer do you need?
First, let me just tell you what thermometer you DON’T need. Speaking as a nurse and mom of many here, you do not want to use forehead strips or a paci thermometer. In fourteen years as a nurse I have yet to meet a paci thermometer that gives an accurate reading.
Skip the pacifier thermometer
Why? Because we do not take oral temperatures on the tongue. That is why we say, “Put this UNDER your tongue.” It is why we can’t get good oral readings on a two year old. They just don’t get the whole “under the tongue” thing. Great idea in theory, and I see the appeal for parents who have paci lovers, but it is best to skip these.
Ditto thumbs down on the forehead strips.
Can I just be honest here? These are for wimpy parents who are terrified of upsetting their child. It would be great if we could just stick something on their forehead and not have to touch them again, but these strips are worthless. Forehead strips give an approximate reading. When your child is sick you need an EXACT reading. You need to know if we are talking Tylenol or an ER visit and a degree can make that difference. Besides, now there are even less invasive ways of checking your child’s temperature. Not to mention forehead strips cost more in the long run because they are disposable. So skip the forehead strips.
Digital rectal and oral thermometers
Digital rectal and oral thermometers are really the same thing. Just depends on where you are putting it. They can also be used axillary, or under the arm. I am not a fan of axillary readings because they are too easily affected by the room’s temperature and the child’s clothing.
Rectal temperatures are the most accurate, with temporal artery coming in at second best. So when do you need the dreaded rectal thermometer? When your baby is less than three months old you absolutely must have a rectal temperature if you think your baby is sick. You might get a forehead scan or underarm temperature at a well visit because they are working under the assumption that your baby does not have a fever.
Infants less than 12 weeks who have a fever have to be evaluated for sepsis, and other thermometers are not as accurate on small babies, so if your little one is 12 weeks and under, choose rectal. It does not hurt your baby and when used correctly a rectal thermometer is 100% safe. For this reason, rectal thermometers are the best choice for young infants.
The OccoBaby digital rectal thermometer is a great choice. It can be used orally or rectally. I recommend having two because even though you can clean with alcohol and use covers, your older kids will absolutely call shenanigans on you if you try to use it on them orally after putting it in your baby’s backside. Do you really blame them? Also, it has a flexible tip, which is not necessary for rectal use, but makes it more comfortable for oral use.
The Vicks Rectal Digital Thermometer is also an excellent choice, especially for parents who are fearful about taking their baby’s rectal temperature. Just keep in mind that it is painless, harmless, and a necessary evil for young infants. Study up on how you take a rectal temperature on a baby, and you will be more confident when you need to do it.
Tympanic or ear thermometers
Tympanic thermometers work by scanning the eardrum with infrared radiation (which isn’t nearly as hazardous as it sounds). The eardrum is a very accurate way of measuring body temperature because it shares the blood supply of the brain’s temperature control center.
Its location however, makes it a little tough to get to, which makes positioning of the ear very important. In infants you must pull the ear down and back when placing the probe into the ear canal in order to obtain an accurate reading. In older children and adults you will pull the ear up and back before placing the probe into the ear canal.
Tympanic thermometers are very accurate as long as used correctly. Difficulties in proper positioning may be to blame for temporal artery thermometers or forehead scanners being used more often.
Also, while ear thermometers are a perfectly good choice, I have found that sick kids often don’t want their ears touched. Especially, if you have a child who tends to have ear infections.
Braun ThermoScan 5 tympanic membrane thermometer is my pick for best ear thermometer. It is known for being accurate and is frequently used by pediatric practices. The tip is soft, making it more comfortable on tiny ears.
Temporal Artery Scanner~ The Best Baby Thermometer for six months and up
Temporal artery scanners work by scanning the blood flow through the temporal artery. This is done by gently gliding the thermometer across your child’s forehead or placing it behind their ear. Temporal artery scanners are considered very accurate and are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics as the next best thing to rectal temperatures. In the AAP’s study they used the Exergen Temporal Artery Thermometer, which is an excellent choice. Exergen also offers a 5.00 rebate on their thermometers. (update-This rebate has gone up to 20.00 last time I checked)
When using a temporal artery thermometer you must first be sure your child’s head is clean and dry. This can be difficult at times when you have a sweaty, feverish child. The pros are that these thermometers are quick (maybe two seconds), accurate, and easy to use. Most importantly, they are non-invasive, so you do not have to upset a child who already does not feel well.
Exergen Temporal Artery Scanner is recommended by the AAP. It is backlit and is incredibly accurate. Between Amazon’s amazing prices and the rebate, it is really a great deal. I consider the Exergen Temoral Artery Thermometer to be the best temporal artery thermometer on the market right now.
No Touch Forehead Scanners
Forehead scanners are the new kids on the block and are popping up in pediatric offices everywhere. The thermometer tells how hot a person is by measuring the infrared energy coming off the body. While not as accurate as a temporal artery thermometer, forehead scanners are gaining ground fast. I’m sure this is for two reasons: you literally do not have to touch your child, and there is no risk of spreading germs.
I had the opportunity to use one (or have on used on me) for the first time last week while giving blood. It was AMAZING. The phlebotomist just held it in front of my forehead and done. She never even had to touch me. You can measure the temp of any object you point a forehead scanner at. Bath water check anyone? Yes please! Milk too hot? Nope, we scanned it.
You simply hold the thermometer two inches away from your child and press a button. The reading is almost instantaneous. Forehead scanners are perfect for taking temps in the middle of the night. Just be sure to purchase one with a back light and silent mode.
As I mentioned earlier, forehead scanners are not considered quite as accurate as temporal artery temps, but the ease of use definitely makes them a viable option. I had the unplanned opportunity to review the Braun No Touch Forehead Scanner this morning after my old thermometer finally died. See how that went here.
Braun No Touch Forehead Thermometer is a great option. I had the chance to try it firsthand this morning and I love it.
The Dr. Madre no-contact forehead thermometer is also an excellent option. It is the thermometer our local Blood Assurance used on me last week. I am giving it bonus points for having a carrying case, which is missing from the Braun version. When you buy a nice thermometer you want a carrying case to protect it. The Dr. Madre no-contact forehead thermometer also talks in both English and Spanish; making it the best thermometer for parents without site.
All in All, the OccoBaby No-Touch Forehead thermometer with bonus digital thermometer is still my favorite choice for the money. It has the best of both worlds at a great price.
Since I published this article (not that long ago), a new type of thermometer has become popular:
Smart thermometers are now the newest type thermometer on the market, but for the most part, these thermometers read temperatures just like any other thermometers. What is the difference? Smart thermometers come equipped with Bluetooth to communicate with your handheld device. When you check your baby’s temperature, the reading will not only be stored on the thermometer, but sent via Bluetooth to an app on you phone. These apps allow you to record and organize temperatures for multiple children, as well as chart symptoms and meds given. A few of the best smart thermometers for your child are:
Withings Thermo Smart Thermometer– A no-touch smart thermometer that helps you decide if you need to contact the pediatrician by analyzing symptoms, temperature, and age. All of this is possible using the app, which was developed by Boston Children’s Hospital.
Infanttech Smarttemp– The Infanttech Smarttemp allows you to monitor you child’s temperature from another room. I often have parents ask me how often they need to check their child’s temperature, especially in the middle of the night. For parents who do not have a no-touch thermometer on hand, I will often tell them to give Tylenol or ibuprofen, then gently keep tabs on their sleeping child by placing a hand on them. If their child is sleeping comfortably and feels the same or cooler, then leave them alone. If they are restless or feel warmer, take the temp. We were at the beach recently, and the entire day I kept asking my family if they thought my daughter felt warm and they told me no. By nighttime, her temp had spiked enough that everyone could tell. A mother’s hand is very accurate when used as a thermometer, but when you have a smart thermometer that continuously monitors your child’s temperature and alerts you of changes, you can let your child sleep undisturbed knowing that you will be alerted when they need your attention.
Kinsa Smart Stick Digital Thermometer– You know I had to include a smart thermometer that can be used orally or rectally(you can do it!). The Kinsa Smart Stick is a very low cost, accurate option in smart thermometers.