Although some pediatricians have moved away from recommending rectal thermometer readings, most still depend on this as the most accurate way of determining whether your child has a temperature, especially infants and children under three years of age. Odds are very good that if you call in to your medical provider's after-hours care line -- which happens more often than you may anticipate -- you'll be asked to provide rectal temperature readings to the doctor or nurse on call.
Many parents are uncomfortable with the prospect of taking baby's rectal temperature because they're worried about accidentally inserting the probe too far or otherwise making their child uncomfortable. Our Best Reviewed rectal thermometer, the Vicks V934 (Est. $11) baby thermometer, solves those problems by having a short, flexible probe in a bulb-like base. It's one of the top picks from Melanie Rosen at TheNightLight.com, thanks to its straightforward, fast operation and its relative comfort.
Users agree that the Vicks V934 lives up to the manufacturer's promise on its website: "You might be a little uncomfortable, but your baby won't be." Most say that baby hardly even notices this Vicks thermometer, and many owners love theirs so much that they give them out to other expectant mothers as baby shower gifts.
This little rectal thermometer draws lots of user praise for having all the right features to make things easy on baby and you: The bulb-shaped grip fits easily in your hand and keeps you from inserting the tip too far, the large, backlit display returns readings in about 10 seconds, and it stores the last reading taken in internal memory. Once baby gets older and starts to object to rectal temperatures, you have the option of using the V934 to take underarm (axillary) readings instead.
Although the body casing of the Vicks V934 isn't fully waterproof, the hypoallergenic tip is, so it's easy to clean with soap and water or rubbing alcohol. It takes a single SR41/LR41 battery that should last for about 200 hours of use, and is accurate to 0.2 degrees -- however, it only displays results in Fahrenheit; Celsius readings are not an option. Users are especially complimentary of the Vicks V934's consistency, with many saying they switched to it after getting frustrated by inaccurate readings from other thermometers. Although we didn't see any notable comments about problems with this thermometer -- in fact, it usually lasts for years -- it is backed by a lifetime warranty.
If cost is an issue or you need a thermometer quickly and the Vicks V934 is not available in the aisle you happen to be standing in, our runner-up is the Safety 1st Gentle Read (Est. $6) rectal thermometer. Although it's not quite as popular with users as the Vicks V934 baby rectal thermometer, the Safety 1st Gentle Read still gets lots of love for its fast (8-second) readings, its short and flexible tip, and the wide body that keeps you from accidentally inserting it too far.
The Safety 1st has a similar range of features as what you'll find on the Vicks V934: A large, easy to read display, a beep signal once it's done, and a memory function that stores the last reading taken. It uses a single LR41 button cell battery.
The Safety 1st is also a top pick from the editors of TheNightlight.com, who tested 13 different thermometers. However, we do note a number of user complaints about thermometers arriving with dead batteries, so don't wait until baby has a fever before you check to make sure the thermometer works. Take several readings while baby is feeling well and pay attention to the consistency: Although feedback for this thermometer's accuracy is mostly positive, it does draw some mixed reviews that seem to be related either to quality control or insertion technique.
You can also use our picks for "stick" style digital thermometers -- the best-reviewed Generation Guard Clinical Digital Thermometer (Est. $15), runner-up Vicks Comfort Flex Digital (Est. $11) and the promising Kinsa Smart Stick Thermometer (Est. $20) -- to take a rectal temperature. However, because of their long, thin design, it's not as intuitive to know how far you should insert the thermometer. Inserting the tip too far can injure your baby, while not inserting it far enough can result in inaccurate readings.
Usually, both you and your child will be more comfortable if you use a dedicated rectal thermometer that is built so it can't be inserted too far. If you do use a stick thermometer to take a rectal temperature, purchase a separate thermometer for taking oral measurements and mark each thermometer with a permanent marker or piece of tape so you don't get them confused.