Forehead thermometers, sometimes called temporal thermometers or classified in the more general category of infrared thermometers, offer rapid, non-invasive temperature readings. Some temporal thermometers draw criticism for being hard to use properly, but once you master the basic swipe-and-read technique -- and learn to compensate for variables like a sweaty forehead -- a temporal thermometer is so un-intrusive that you can even use it on a sleeping child. The Mayo Clinic says this type of thermometer is appropriate for use on infants from age 3 months and up, although emerging research suggests temporal thermometers might give accurate results on newborns, too.
Our best-reviewed temporal thermometer is the Exergen Temporal Artery Thermometer TAT-2000C (Est. $30), which draws excellent accuracy scores from a leading consumer research lab, and very good scores for its repeatability and features. Many of the users who review this product are nurses who use the professional version at work, or parents who've seen their pediatricians using the professional version of this thermometer and wanted the home version for themselves.
As with any temporal thermometer, poor technique can lead to inaccurate results. However, the Exergen temporal thermometer's accuracy has been proven in a number of clinical studies, including a study published in the journal Pediatric Emergency Care positing that temporal scanning might displace rectal temperatures as the preferred temperature-taking method in a pediatric emergency room.
Once you've conquered the learning curve, reviewers say the Exergen is quick, efficient and easy to use: Just push the button, swipe the thermometer across your child's forehead, and release the button. The TAT-2000C returns results in just a couple of seconds, and parents love being able to take a sleeping child's temperature without waking him up. A beep and flashing light let you know the reading is ready, or can be turned off so as not to wake your child.
The Exergen Temporal Thermometer draws praise from experts like Melanie Monroe Rosen, writing at the baby website TheNightLight.com, for its non-invasive nature and how little anxiety it causes in children; parents tend to love it for the same reason. The Exergen stores the last eight readings in its memory and uses a widely available 9V battery. The recently updated version, which uses the same model number as the older version, also has a backlit "SmartGlow" display for easy readings.
Most parents -- and quite a few medical professionals -- feel the Exergen Temporal Artery Thermometer is an excellent investment for use on both children and adults. We do see some user concerns about accuracy -- as with any thermometer -- but before you chalk up problems to the thermometer itself, it's best to re-watch the training videos on the manufacturer's website to make sure you're using the proper technique.
The Exergen Temporal Artery Thermometer far outstrips the competition in terms of positive feedback from both experts and users, not to mention clinical trials verifying its accuracy. But if you can't get your hands on the Exergen, there are a couple of alternatives you can try -- with a couple of big caveats: both have a reputation for being unusually finicky, and both manufacturers seem to hand out free samples in exchange for reviews.
Because of the latter issue, it's hard to tell exactly how reliable user reviews are for the Innovo Forehead and Ear Thermometer INV-EF100 (Est. $35) and the iProven Forehead and Ear Thermometer DMT-489 (Est. $35). Both products are identical in terms of features, with the ability to store up to 20 readings in memory, push-button transition between forehead and ear modes, and a combination of color-coded display and beep alarm to signal if you have a fever. Strangely, the beep alarm cannot be silenced.
The biggest concern about these thermometers -- aside from sorting through fake reviews -- is a sharp divide between users' opinion of their accuracy. Even when we narrow the field to only reviews posted by verified purchasers, there's little middle ground between users who love these thermometers, saying they're wonderfully accurate and easy to use, and those who say they're ridiculously finicky or simply won't return accurate readings at all.
Again, the most reliable thermometer in this category is, without a doubt, the Exergen Temporal Artery Thermometer TAT-2000C. But if you do decide to give the Innovo or iProven thermometer a try, here's a tip: If you have problems with the thermometer and customer service isn't responsive, try posting a review on Amazon.com outlining your complaint. Both companies monitor the site proactively, and in at least a few cases they've offered better service in response to negative reviews than when responding to direct contact.