What the best digital thermometers have

  • Convenient testing locations on the body. The ideal testing location (rectal, oral, underarm or forehead) depends on the typical usage context and the age of the patient, but rectal temperatures are said to be the most accurate and are ideal for children up to 3.
  • Fast readings. A few basic digital thermometers can take a full minute or longer to produce a reading, which is difficult when dealing with small children. The best digital thermometers offer fast readings of 10 seconds or less.
  • Backlit display. Digital thermometers with a backlit display are easier to read in the dark, although some users say it's not an essential feature.
  • Fever alert. Some digital thermometers offer an audible fever alert to let you know if you or your child has a high temperature, which takes the guesswork out of reading the display.
  • Memory to store prior readings. Digital thermometers with an internal memory that stores the last measurement (some store up to 30 readings) are convenient and eliminate the need to document middle-of-the-night measurements.
  • Long battery life. Whether a digital thermometer uses a button cell battery or standard alkaline batteries, models that feature a long battery life are more convenient for long-term use.

Know before you go

How old is the patient? Rectal temperatures are the most accurate for infants and young children, but not appropriate for older children and adults. Rectal thermometers are generally recommended for children through the age of three.

Do you monitor temperatures at night? If you frequently check a child's temperature in the middle of the night, a digital thermometer with a backlit display will be easier to read in the dark. Thermometers that store the last measurement eliminate the need to write down temperatures in the middle of the night, as well.

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, a thermometer with a larger storage capacity is more convenient. Some digital thermometers store a greater number of readings, such as 20 or 30, so you don't have to document constantly.

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. Thermometers that can take readings from multiple body parts, such as under the arm and orally, are more versatile for multi-person use.

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