Best Digital Thermometers
What the best digital thermometer has:
- Accurate temperature readings. No matter what other features it has, a thermometer that doesn’t give accurate temperature readings is useless.
- Quick results. With most digital thermometers, you or your sick child have to sit quiet and motionless until the reading is complete. Having a fast thermometer makes it easier to get through the process without repeated do-overs because you moved or let the device slip out of place. The best digital thermometers offer readings in 10 seconds or less.
- Convenient testing locations. The ideal testing location (rectal, oral, underarm/maxillary or forehead/temporal) depends primarily on the age and disposition of the patient. For children age three and under, rectal temperatures are still generally said to be the most accurate.
- A beeper and backlit display. Sometimes it’s easier to take a temperature in the dark, either to avoid waking someone else in the room or to avoid further disturbing a cranky, tired child. A backlit display and a beep-when-done feature both make the whole process a little more foolproof.
- Fever alert. Some digital thermometers offer a color-coded fever alert to let you know if you or your child have a high temperature. This takes the guesswork out of reading the display, especially if you’re feeling groggy or sick yourself.
- Memory to store prior readings. Many digital thermometers have an internal memory that stores anywhere from one to thirty previous temperature readings. This eliminates the need to immediately document temperatures taken in the middle of the night or the early morning, and also lets you go back and double-check to make sure you’ve recorded things correctly.
- Long battery life. Whether your digital thermometer uses a button cell battery or standard alkaline batteries, the longer its battery life, the less time you’ll spend fumbling to change batteries in the dark.
Know before you go
Consider the age of the patient.
Many physicians still advise using a rectal thermometer for children up to three years of age, but recommend other types of thermometers for older children and adults who will usually object to the use of a rectal thermometer. If the person whose temperature you’re taking struggles to stay still during a reading, minimize the struggle by using a faster or less-invasive thermometer.
When do readings usually take place?
For a sick newborn, parents may want to take their temperature during the night when the infant is calmer. Older children and adults may prefer to have their temperatures taken during the day. If you’re in the habit of taking temperatures at night, keep in mind that several features can affect the thermometer’s suitability, including how invasive the thermometer is and how loudly it beeps to confirm a good reading (which might wake others in the room).
Do you need to document temperatures over time?
If you’re using a digital thermometer for fertility tracking or for a chronic illness that requires ongoing documentation, look for a thermometer that stores many past readings in internal memory. Being able to store 20 or 30 readings saves you from having to constantly document your readings one at a time, especially if you’re taking temperatures at night or in the early morning.
Will you be using the thermometer for more than one person?
If you’re looking for a digital thermometer for the whole family, look for a model with disposable probe covers or an easy-to-clean probe. This is especially important if you use the same thermometer for rectal temperatures and measuring other sites, although most users quite rightly prefer to hold one thermometer in reserve for rectal measurements only, and use another one for taking temperatures at other sites.
Best Digital Thermometer
The Generation Guard Clinical Digital Thermometer is everything a basic digital thermometer should be: It returns results quickly (about 15 seconds), it can be used orally, under the arm or for a rectal reading, and it’s fully waterproof so you can wash the whole thing if need be. The Generation Guard thermometer is accurate to 0.2F or 0.1C, and switches between Celsius and Fahrenheit when you press and hold its single button.
Fast and accurate, the Generation Guard Clinical Digital Thermometer is a top pick of reviewers. It can be used for oral, underarm, or rectal readings, although it’s best for oral use. The fully waterproof housing enables you to give it a thorough cleaning to avoid passing along germs.
Accurate, Washable, Versatile, Beeps when done, Results in 15 seconds
Best Smart Digital Thermometer
The Kinsa Smart Thermometer pairs with your iOS or Android smartphone, harnessing its processing power to take quick, accurate readings.
Because your phone does most of the work, the thermometer itself is small, light and durable. It plugs into your mobile device’s headphone jack and includes a free app that walks you through positioning the thermometer correctly, lets you add written or photo notes, and tracks your symptoms, temperature and any medication you take.
The Kinsa Smart Thermometer syncs with your smartphone to track symptoms, chart temperature fluctuations, and keep track of your meds. You can even add photos of symptoms like rashes. There’s also a “bubble game” to keep children still while you take their temperature.
Can be used, orally, rectally or underarm, Free app tracks symptoms and medication, Stores information for multiple users, Good customer service
Readings can be inconsistent, App can be finicky with iPhone
Best Rectal Thermometer
The Vicks V934 baby rectal thermometer is a smash hit with users, who love its soft, flexible, short tip. The egg-shaped base of the thermometer fits comfortably in your hand and eliminates any risk of accidentally inserting the probe too far. This is the thermometer that users turn to when they’re frustrated by inconsistencies from other models, and it’s backed by an impressive lifetime guarantee.
This is one of the most-recommended rectal thermometers for babies. The Vicks V934’s short stem and bulb-like shape make it super safe, and the backlight means it can even be used in a dim nursery.
Safe, Accurate, Fast, 10 second reading, Easy to hold, Lifetime warranty
Not fully waterproof
Best Ear Thermometer
The Braun Thermoscan 5 ear thermometer tops the charts thanks to its speed — readings are returned almost instantly — and suite of features.
A soft, pre-warmed tip helps eliminate the discomfort and inconsistent readings that can result from a cooler tip, and a light-and-beep system helps you position the thermometer correctly. The Thermoscan 5’s backlit display changes color to indicate a fever, and users love that its AA batteries are widely available.
The Braun Thermoscan 5 is a very safe, very accurate thermometer that’s much easier to use on a fidgety child (or adult) than an oral style thermometer. It can even be used when the child is asleep, thanks to an illuminated display.
Pre-warmed tip, Safe and comfortable, Accurate and fast
Requires disposable lens filters to operate
Best Temporal (Forehead) Thermometer
Like all temporal thermometers, the Exergen Temporal Artery Thermometer requires a bit of a learning curve — but once you’ve mastered the basic technique, it returns results so accurate and reliable that many medical experts buy the home version for themselves.
This thermometer’s accuracy has been verified by a number of clinical studies. The display will beep and flash when a reading is complete, or you can turn this feature off to avoid waking someone who is sleeping.
Also called a forehead thermometer, temporal thermometers are becoming accurate enough to replace the more traditional types.
Among the best of this type is the Exergen Temporal Artery Thermometer. It gives a reading almost instantaneously and, in testing, gets excellent scores for accuracy.
Accurate, Very fast, Easy to use, Beeps and flashes when done
A learning curve
Choose a thermometer that best suits your needs and keep it someplace handy in your home, preferably near your medicines and first aid kit.
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