What the best digital thermometer
- 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
- 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
- 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
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.