How to Choose the Right Thermometer

How to Choose the Right Thermometer

The world has come a long way since the inception of mercury thermometers. While some considered them to be efficient, many deemed them too hard to read.

It also took long for one to read the results. In a bid to boost safety and efficiency, the mercury thermometer has been replaced by the digital thermometer.

Today, it’s almost impossible not to find one in the home medicine cabinet. Parents love it because it makes it easier for them to read the temperature and because its results are always accurate.

While no one can argue on its importance, there’s the question of how to go about choosing the right one.

The reality is that all users have their preferences, and what one considers the right digital thermometer may not necessarily work for another. Some of the factors to consider include:

  • Accuracy: The point of getting a home thermometer is to obtain accurate results
  • Design: Every home cabinet needs a thermometer that doesn’t complicate the reading process:
  • Readability: Users shouldn’t have to squint or turn up the spotlights to see the readings.
  • Speed: How long does it take to know if your loved one has a fever, allowing you to take action?

The Different Types of Thermometers

Thermometers typically fall under five different categories depending on how you choose to use each:

  • I. Oral
  • II. Forehead
  • III. Tympanic
  • IV. Rectal
  • V. Axillary (under the arm)

The kind of thermometer needed is determined by the age of the patient and the user’s preferences.

For example, when dealing with a patient, the ideal thermometer to use would be a tympanic or forehead thermometer rather than the rectal or oral variations.

You have to remember that kids aren’t always easy to deal with, requiring you to carefully choose the digital thermometer to use.

In some cases, it can become challenging to use invasive methods to measure temperature. Of course, some thermometers are multipurpose!

1. Mercury Glass Thermometers

Photo: Sciencing

At one point, this was the only available thermometer and most preferred. Modern users consider it outdated, as readings had to be taken by placing it under the arm, rectally, or orally.

Additionally, the fact that they use mercury, which is toxic, meant that not many people were comfortable using them.

2. Basal Thermometers

Photo: Baby 4 you

Women use the basal thermometer to look for temperature changes which may indicate that she has ovulated.

The thermometer is sensitive and is used by placing it under the tongue or in the rectum. They aren’t commonly used at home.

3. Infrared Thermometers

Photo: RS Philippines

As suggested by the name, thermometers under this category use infrared technology to measure heat on the cavity or surface.

One major advantage of using this variant is that it’s able to generate results very quickly. You can also find forehead and ear infrared thermometers with digital display screens.

4. Digital Thermometers

Photo: 3B Scientific

They have become the norm in most modern homes as they don’t have many disadvantages in common with the mercury glass thermometer.

The digital thermometers are user-friendly, safe to use, and have a strong body.

How to Go About Taking a Temperature

Different methods are used to take the temperature. The methods vary for adults and children under 5 years.

I. Using a Digital Thermometer

One of the fastest ways to check body heat is using the digital thermometer, which is readily available in pharmacies and supermarkets.

To use the thermometer, you need to:

  • Use soap and cold water to clean its tip before thoroughly rinsing it.
  • Turn it on
  • Take the tip and place it under the tongue, near the far end of your mouth
  • Close the lips, making sure to hold the thermometer in your mouth
  • Wait for it to flash or beep
  • Check the temperature displayed on its screen

II. Digital Ear Thermometers

Photo: Be independent

For the digital ear thermometer, you have to follow the instructions included in its packaging. Users are required to pull their ears up and back before they can place it inside the ear.

It’s the only way to get an accurate reading.

III. Getting a Reading without a Thermometer

While it’s advisable to use a thermometer to get a reading, it’s still possible to get one without having to use a thermometer.

You will need to touch your back and chest for this type of reading. If the two areas feel hotter than normal, it may mean that you have developed a high temperature.

What is a high Temperature? While normal body temperature varies from one person to the next, any temperature reading above 38®C is considered a fever or high temperature. A normal temperature can also change throughout the day.

Other symptoms to check for include the presence of chills (shivering).

Note: touching the forehead isn’t considered an accurate technique of checking your body temperature.


It’s advisable to have a digital thermometer in your home cabinet for use in checking body temperature.

If you find that you have a high fever, you should avoid visiting crowded places such as a hospital, pharmacy, or GP surgery. Do your best to stay at home.