Before we get into the best type of thermometer to use on your child, let’s first discuss what you should NOT be using. Remember the old-school glass thermometers that used mercury to take your temperature? If you happen to have one, dispose of it properly according to your local state and federal laws. If the glass on that thermometer breaks, the mercury inside of it can actually be toxic to humans.
There are plenty of different types of thermometers on the market today. What you really want to know is the easiest way to take a child’s temperature accurately. Well, we totally understand your angst, parents! Some kids can’t sit still long enough to have their temperature taken, while others simply refuse to be probed! So we’ve come up with some of the best methods out there. We’ve also included the best thermometers for adults as well.
What is the Best Type of Thermometer for…
#1 The Most Accurate Temperature-Taking for All Ages
Digital thermometers provide the most accurate readings for people of all ages. They can take readings orally, rectally, and under the armpit—and they usually only take a minute or less. For the most accurate temperatures in kids 3 months to 3 years old, take a rectal reading using a digital thermometer. For older children and adults, an oral reading is the most accurate if taken properly with the mouth all the way shut. The downside is that some children won’t sit still long enough to have their temperature taken properly, whether orally, rectally, or under the armpit. Also, rectal temperatures can be uncomfortable for a child.
#2 The Least Amount of Disturbance Yet Still Reliable (for Infants to Older Children)
A temporal artery thermometer wins this category. It provides a quick, easy way to take your child’s temperature with the least disturbance or fuss. This is especially good for parents who are afraid to take rectal readings on their child. The device works by simply scanning the forehead to pick up the temperature of blood flowing through the temporal artery. These thermometers work best in children (infants to older children). Studies suggest that, in terms of accuracy, temporal artery thermometers are the next best thing to rectal readings from digital thermometers. The cons are that they are more expensive than other modern thermometers, and they may not be as accurate when used on adults.
#3 The Least Amount of Disturbance Yet Reliable (for Adults):
Tympanic thermometers, which use infrared rays to measure the temperature inside the ear canal, can be used on infants older than age 6 months, older children, and adults. Since temporal artery thermometers don’t work as well on adults, tympanic thermometers are a good alternative for those who have a hard time taking oral temperatures due to breathing problems or oral issues. They are typically accurate if positioned properly, however ear wax or the size and shape of an ear can come in the way of a proper reading. Tympanic thermometers are also more expensive than digital thermometers, but they are worth the investment if digital thermometers aren’t working for you.