Friday, 29 February 2008

Checking a fever is an important part of monitoring illness in both children and adults. We find out more about buying a reliable home-use thermometer.


The Basics

  • There are different types of thermometers available to consumers:

    • Glass-mercury were the original thermometers, but due to environmental and health concerns over mercury, they have become less popular, though no less accurate.

    • Electronic probes can be used orally, rectally, or in an axillary position (e.g. the armpit). They have a plastic, flexible probe with a temperature sensor tip and a digital read-out.

    • Electronic ear thermometers measure the temperature inside the ear canal. They tend to give falsely low readings and are not recommended for use in children under 12 months old.

    • Plastic strips that adhere to the forehead (good for kids) can detect a fever, but don’t actually take a reading. They only work on surface temperature, not internal temperature, which is more important.

  • If you have children, choose a thermometer based on the age of your child:

    • Use a rectal thermometer for 3 years old and younger

    • Oral thermometers are good for kids aged 4 and up.

    • Axillary (in the armpit) models are acceptable for babies 3 months and over, but not as accurate as a rectal reading.

    • Ear thermometers are best for children 12 months and over, but they are not always accurate.

Be Aware

  • Babies under 6 months old with a fever should see a doctor immediately.

  • Thermometers used rectally should only be used as such, so be sure to label it if you have more than one.


We enlisted the help of doctors and nurses at a pediatric medical clinic to test and rate some thermometers:

Accuracy Test

  • The Braun ear scan showed mixed results but were pretty accurate. Our experts noted the key is to aim it as directly at the ear drum as possible.

  • The Timex Acrobat probe thermometer was the most reliable, and its flexible probe was comfortable.

  • The Fever Bugz stick-ons were fun for the kids, but only slightly useful for the doctors and nurses, who had to follow up with a real thermometer for an accurate reading.


The Timex Acrobat, with its flexible probe, was the most accurate thermometer, and was comfortable for the kids to use.



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  • Rae

    Did you do another episode in regards to thermometers? I remember watching one, but I was thinking an external thermometer won the votes (and it may have been a drugstore brand). I’m needing one at the moment and I thought I’d try it out but I can’t remember which brand it was! Thanks