Checking your temperature with a reliable medical thermometer can be very helpful in managing illness at home. And nowadays, most thermometers give accurate results within a few seconds. So how do you choose the right one for you and your family?
Digital thermometers give the most accurate body temperature readings. But the best thermometer is one that can be used easily and correctly. It is also helpful if your thermometer comes from a reliable manufacturer. Rectal thermometers are still considered by many doctors to be the most accurate for babies and children, but oral and forehead thermometers are also reliable and more convenient to use.
How do temperature readings vary?
Based on how a thermometer is administered, readings can vary:
- Rectal temperature readings are about 0.5 to 1 degrees F higher than oral temperature readings.
- Armpit (axillary) temperature readings are usually 0.5 to 1 degrees F lower than oral temperature readings.
- Ear (tympanic) temperature readings are about 0.5 to 1 degrees F higher than oral temperature readings.
- Forehead (temporal) scanner readings are around 0.5 to 1 degrees F lower than oral temperature readings.
4 different types of medical thermometers
A typical thermometer is made up of two primary components: sensor and numerical reading. These make the temperature measurement visible in numerical value, which can be shown in Celsius or Fahrenheit.
Below are 4 different types of medical thermometers and how they’re used.
1. Digital thermometers
Digital thermometers are more advanced types of thermometers, and when used correctly, provide the most accurate results. They are also easy to use, cost-friendly, and are widely available.
These thermometers typically operate using heat sensors, which help measure the temperature of the human body. An electronic circuit and a display screen are used to display temperature readings. They are widely used to record readings from under the armpit and tongue or the rectum.
2. Clinical thermometers
Clinical thermometers, also called medical thermometers, are particularly designed for clinical purposes and used to measure the temperature of the human body. They are made of a long narrow glass tube that contains a bulb with mercury at its end. Currently, mercury thermometers are replacing digital thermometers due to environmental and safety concerns and require sterilization before use.
The average temperature of the human body is 98.6 degrees F, although this range can vary between 95 to 107.6 degrees F. Clinical thermometers are designed to measure this typical temperature range.
3. Electronic ear thermometers
Electronic ear thermometers use infrared technology to measure the body temperature from inside the ear canal. They are also called tympanic thermometers because they measure temperature using the tympanic membrane with infrared energy given off by the heat source. These thermometers capture body temperatures quickly and are best suited for children.
4. Forehead thermometers
Forehead thermometers capture the superficial temporal artery's temperature (a sub branch of the carotid artery) using infrared sensors. These thermometers have become quite popular because of their non-contact mechanism and are often used to measure people's temperatures in airports, stations, stores, and stadiums.
While convenient because they do not require physical contact, forehead thermometers are not accurate because the temperature readings usually run about 1 degree F lower than digital thermometers.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Mayo Clinic. Thermometer Basics: Taking Your Child's Temperature. https://mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/thermometer/art-20047410
Mogensen CB, Wittenhoff L, Fruerhøj G, Hansen S. Forehead or Ear Temperature Measurement Cannot Replace Rectal Measurements, Except for Screening Purposes. BMC Pediatr. Published 2018 Jan 26. doi:10.1186/s12887-018-0994-1
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Non-contact Infrared Thermometers. https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/general-hospital-devices-and-supplies/non-contact-infrared-thermometers
Non-Contact Thermometers for Detecting Fever: A Review of Clinical Effectiveness [Internet]. Ottawa (ON): Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health. 2014 Nov 20. https://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK263237/
Top Which Type of Thermometer Is the Most Accurate Related Articles
acetaminophen (Tylenol, Tylenol Arthritis Pain, Tylenol Ext, Little Fevers Children's Fever/Pain)
Acetaminophen is a drug that reduces fever and relieves pain. It is available alone, or in combination with hundreds of other drugs available both over-the-counter (without a prescription) or that that may require a prescription from your doctor, for example, acetaminophen and hydrocodone (Vicodin, Norco) or acetaminophen and oxycodone (Percocet).
Acetaminophen treats a variety of diseases or other medical problems that cause pain or fever. Examples of conditions acetaminophen treats include, headache, minor arthritis pain, back pain, tooth pain, menstrual cramps, PMS, osteoarthritis, common cold, tension headache, chronic pain, hip pain, shoulder and neck pain, sore throat, sinus infection, teething, TMJ, bites and stings, and sprains and strains.
Acetaminophen generally has no side effects when taken as prescribed. When side effects are experienced, the most common are headache, rash, and nausea.
In 2014, the FDA recommended that doctors and other health care professionals only prescribe acetaminophen in doses of 325 mg or less. This warning highlights the potential for allergic reactions, for example, face, mouth, and throat swelling, difficulty breathing, itching, or rash. This action also will help reduce the risk of severe liver injury and serious allergic reactions associated with this drug. Other possible serious side effects adverse effects include anemia, kidney damage, thrombocytopenia (a reduced number of platelets in the blood), and liver problems.
Other patient information. Do not take more than one product that contains acetaminophen at the same time. Do not take more than one acetaminophen-containing drug than directed. Do not drink alcohol while taking medicine that contains acetaminophen due to severe liver damage.
REFERENCE: FDA Prescribing Information.
Fever in Adults and ChildrenAlthough a fever technically is any body temperature above the normal of 98.6 F (37 C), in practice, a person is usually not considered to have a significant fever until the temperature is above 100.4 F (38 C). Fever is part of the body's own disease-fighting arsenal; rising body temperatures apparently are capable of killing off many disease-producing organisms.
OTC Pain Relievers and Fever ReducersOver-the-counter pain medication and fever reducers include aspirin, acetaminophen and nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Side effects, drug interactions, warnings and precautions, pregnancy and breastfeeding safety, and patient information should be reviewed prior to taking any medication.
Cold, Fever and Flu Symptoms in Children: Medications and Home RemediesHow long does a cold last? How long is a cold contagious? Colds and fevers are some of the most common ailments in children. Learn common cold symptoms, treatment options, over the counter (OTC) medicines for cold and fever, home remedies, and how to relieve a sore throat.
Targeted Temperature Management (Therapeutic Hypothermia)Targeted temperature management or therapeutic hypothermia is a type of treatment in which healthcare providers use cooling devices to lower the body temperature for a short time. When a person gets a cardiac arrest, the heart suddenly stops beating, and blood flow to the organs including the brain is affected.
What Body Temperature Is Considered a Fever?A fever is defined as a body temperature that is higher than normal. The normal body temperature, however, varies slightly among different individuals. For adults, a fever is when the body temperature is higher than 100.4°F. For children, a fever is when their body temperature is more than 100.4°F (measured rectally), 99.5°F (measured orally) or 99°F (measured under the arm).
Cold, Flu, and Cough: Why Do I Have the Chills Other Than Fever?Chills and fever often come as a combo, but sometimes chills happen with a normal temperature. Find out what could be behind these types of shivers.