The human body’s heat regulation mechanism is just one of the many fascinating automatic systems that keep us alive. The hypothalamus– a small, central region of the brain– is the mastermind of the entire operation. When body temperature changes, the hypothalamus reacts by sending signals to skin cells, sweat glands, blood vessels and other parts of the body. Working together, they help raise or lower body temperature as needed.
A fever occurs when the hypothalamus increases the body’s temperature to a level that’s higher than normal. Any body temperature above 38°C (100.4°F) is considered to be a fever. According to an article published by Harvard Medical School, fevers are usually harmless and don’t typically cause permanent bodily harm. However, a fever can be an early indication of a more serious underlying medical issue. Diseases like arthritis and other conditions that cause inflammation may cause fever, as can cancer.
If you’re feeling abnormally hot, one easy way to check your temperature is with a consumer-grade thermometer. There are many different types of thermometers that you can buy, ranging from inexpensive yet accurate digital stick thermometers to infrared, no-touch thermometers that remove the need to disturb the sleep of whoever you want to check.
Here are the best digital thermometers you can buy:
- Braun’s ThermoScan is an ear thermometer that’s more accurate and comfortable to use than most because of its flexible tip and patented tip warmer mechanism.
- If all you want is a simple, inexpensive thermometer to use when you or a loved one is sick, you may want to give Provèn’s DMT-489 a look. Its convenient buttons let you switch between forehead and ear modes with minimum hassle.
- Vigorun’s Forehead and Ear Thermometer has a silent mode and a backlit display. These features are convenient for monitoring a loved one while they sleep.
- Contactless thermometers like Braun’s Three-in-One No Touch cost a bit more but require less maintenance and cleaning.
- The Sesame Street Smart Thermometer from Kinsa not only looks like Elmo from Sesame Street, but can also send data to any iOS or Android smartphone.
The best ear thermometer
Braun’s ThermoScan is as accurate as it is comfortable. The patented tip warmer device is designed to help increase the accuracy of measurements, but it also enhances comfort. The flexible style tip is gentle on sensitive ears, as well. Another nice thing about this thermometer is that it’s fast. After you take a measurement, you only have to wait two seconds to get the results.
- High accuracy. Because the eardrum is positioned in close proximity to the brain, it can be used for taking very accurate temperature readings.
- Patented tip warmer. Sometimes, the coolness of a thermometer tip can throw off a body temperature reading. To counteract this, Braun developed a patented tip warming solution it calls ExacTemp.
- Gentle and kid-friendly. The tip of this thermometer is flexible, which is perfect for children and adults with sensitive ears.
- Easy to clean and maintain. Braun’s disposable lens filters not only save you from having to clean the ThermoScan’s sensor every time you use it, they also improve its accuracy.
- Records readings. The ThermoScan can hold up to eight readings. Tracking your body temperature over time is useful for identifying patterns and trends.
- Delivers quick results. Two seconds after you take a measurement, you get the results.
- No screen backlight. The display’s lack of backlighting makes it difficult to use this thermometer in low-light conditions.
In a nutshell
If accuracy is your priority, Braun’s ThermoScan thermometer might be your best option for checking your body temperature at home. The patented ExacTemp tip warmer and disposable lens filters help you get precise readings every time.
Buy Braun’s ThermoScan from Amazon
The most user-friendly thermometer
There are many thermometers that are capable of measuring body temperature from both the head and ear. However, Provèn’s DMT-489 is easier to use than most because it has convenient buttons that let you switch between forehead and ear mode without having to scroll through complicated interface menus. It’s a simple but effective thermometer that comes with a carrying bag and everything you need to take accurate temperature readings at home.
- Convenient head and ear mode buttons. The handy head and ear buttons reduce the time needed to switch from one mode to another.
- Backlit display. The crisp, green display glows in the dark, thanks to its built-in backlights.
- Comes with a carrying pouch. The simple drawstring bag makes it easy to store and transport this thermometer.
- Fast results. Find out your temperature as soon as two seconds after you take a reading.
- Stores readings. The built-in storage can hold up to 20 readings, which is more than most thermometers in this price range.
- Switch between Fahrenheit and Celsius with ease. Just hold down the ear button for eight seconds to change the way the thermometer displays your readings.
- No silent mode. The sound effects that this thermometer produces aren’t loud, but there’s no way to turn them off.
In a nutshell
This thermometer is easier to use than most digital thermometers, thanks to its intuitive buttons. These let you quickly switch from head mode to ear mode and back again without having to grab an instruction book.
The best silent mode thermometer
Vigorun’s Forehead and Ear Thermometer
The old saying “silence is golden” rings especially true when it comes to thermometers. The Vigorun Forehead and Ear thermometer is excellent for measuring the body temperature of a sleeping child because you can operate it in silent mode. You can even read the results in the dark, thanks to its backlit display. Another attractive thing about this thermometer is its versatility. It measures not only body temperature, but also room temperature and more.
- Versatile. This thermometer is suitable for adults, children and toddlers alike. It can even tell you the room temperature as well as the temperature of bath water and baby bottles.
- Quiet mode. If the person you want to check is asleep, just switch to quiet mode. This will let you get a body temperature reading without disturbing their slumber.
- Backlit display. The fact that the display lights up in the dark means that you don’t have to turn the lights on when you use this thermometer.
- 60-day return policy. If for any reason you’re unsatisfied, Vigorun will give you a full refund up to 60 days after your purchase, no questions asked.
- Stores temperature readings. The built-in storage can hold 35 sets of readings.
- Comes with everything you need. The box includes batteries, a storage pouch as well as the thermometer itself.
- You have to clean it each time you use it. If you don’t keep the lens clean, it won’t work properly.
In a nutshell
Vigorun’s Forehead and Ear thermometer is perfect for occasions when you want to take a body temperature reading but you don’t want to disturb the person you’re looking after. The fact that you can use it to measure the temperature just about anything is a nice bonus, as well.
The best no-touch thermometer
Braun’s Three-in-One No Touch
Contactless thermometers have several advantages of other thermometer styles. The fact that they never come in contact with whoever you’re measuring means that they require less cleaning and maintenance. Plus, they’re perfect for measuring children that are too fidgety for oral, ear or forehead thermometers. Braun’s Three-in-One No Touch Thermometer is an excellent option because it’s versatile and easy to use.
- Won’t wake up your child. If you child is a light sleeper, you’ll appreciate the fact that you can use this thermometer without touching them at all.
- Different alerts for different ages. There are three different age settings you can use: 0-3 months, 3-36 months and 36+ months.
- Low maintenance. Not as much cleaning is required compared to thermometers that come in contact with the body.
- One-button operation. Just press the power button and point at whoever– or whatever– you want to measure. When you’re ready to take a reading, just click the blue button on the center of the device.
- Fast readings. Two seconds after you take your reading, you’ll have your results.
- Measures food and bathwater. This versatility may come in handy if you’re taking care of a small child or infant.
- Not as accurate as other types of thermometers. Contactless thermometers are reasonably accurate, but they’re not quite as precise as ear, forehead and oral thermometers.
In a nutshell
The main advantage of contactless thermometers like this one is that they are extremely gentle and non-invasive. The Braun Three-in-One No Touch is an excellent thermometer for mothers, fathers and other people that are looking after young children and infants.
The best thermometer for kids
Sesame Street Smart Thermometer from Kinsa
The Sesame Street Smart Thermometer from Kinsa is one of the most unique thermometers out there. The first thing you might notice is its Sesame Street branding. The case is decorated to look like Elmo– and the orange “nose” is actually a button. But the Sesame Street tie-ins don’t stop there. The app has a bubble popping game, which is hosted by– you guessed it– Elmo himself. In addition to the fun, kid-friendly aspects of this thermometer, there are plenty of practical features for adults, as well.
- Smartphone integration. There are iOS and Android versions of this thermometer’s app.
- Extensive analytical tools. The app’s annotation feature lets you track symptoms and body temperature over time.
- Kid-friendly Sesame Street theme. The fact that this thermometer looks like Elmo from Sesame Street is one of the most unique things about it.
- Gives advice and guidance. The Kinsa app’s tagline is “It’s like having a nurse in your pocket.”
- Fast readings. If you can spare two seconds, you have all the time you need to take a reading.
- Works with or without the app. The app is totally optional. You can opt to use the built-in display instead.
- Lacks forehead mode. Other digital thermometers let you take readings from both the forehead and the ear, but this one only takes ear readings.
In a nutshell
You’ll be hard pressed to find a better thermometer for kids. What better way to make a thermometer fun than to make it look like Elmo from Sesame Street? The note taking features are impressive as well.
Buying guide for thermometers
Ease of use vs. accuracy
Generally, the easier a thermometer is to use, the less accurate its readings tend to be. If you do decide to go with a touchless thermometer, make sure that you invest in a high quality one. A thermometer is only as good as the accuracy of its readings.
Some thermometers can be used to take forehead and ear readings. If you’re an adult and you need a thermometer for personal use, this versatility may not matter as much. But if you have a family and you have children that can’t seem stand still sometimes, the ability to switch between modes could be a major upside.
Cleaning and maintenance vs. price
Thermometers that require you to buy disposables cost more over the long term. However, this added cost may be worth it if minimizing maintenance and upkeep is your priority. Thermometers that require constant cleaning are not as easy to use.
Health monitoring and tracking
Some digital thermometers can only hold a few readings, but others have enough storage space to accomodate 20 readings or more. Still other thermometers let you store and track your health statistics with smartphone apps. If you’re the analytical type, these features may be worth exploring.
Do you intend to take temperature readings in the dark?
Not all digital thermometers have backlit displays. Thermometers that require an external light source tend to drain batteries faster than those that don’t, though.
All the digital thermometers listed above will deliver your reading in two seconds or less. However, some digital thermometers require longer wait times.
Digital thermometers are much safer than traditional glass thermometers. Still, thermometers with removable parts shouldn’t be stored where children can access them.
Digital stick style thermometers are inexpensive, accurate and easy to use. You can get a high quality one for around $20. Their only major downside is that they can be a bit awkward– particularly digital stick style thermometers that have rigid tips. Flexible tip thermometer sticks are somewhat more comfortable.
The next step up after digital stick style thermometers are forehead / ear thermometers. These typically cost $30 to $40. Ear thermometers are nearly as accurate as stick style thermometers, but they’re not as awkward. Forehead style thermometers are not quite as accurate as ear thermometers, but they are even more comfortable and convenient.
Contactless thermometers that use infrared rays to take body temperature readings are typically cost $50 or more. Though they are a bit more expensive than other thermometer types, they require less cleaning and maintenance. Also, some can measure not only body temperature but also the temperature of food and water as well.
Frequently asked questions
Q: Are fevers dangerous? Can they cause brain damage?
Intensive care specialist Dr. Paul Young told ABC News that the vast majority of fevers don’t do any significant, long-lasting bodily harm. High fevers sometimes trigger seizures in children, but these don’t cause brain damage or elipsy.
Q: What is the most accurate way to measure body temperature?
A: According to the Mayo Clinic, oral temperature readings are usually accurate. Armpit readings, however, are not very accurate. Earwax can interfere with ear thermometer readings, so it’s a good idea to use a q-tip before you use one.
Q: When should I contact a doctor if I have a fever?
A: Cleveland Clinic recommends that you contact a doctor if you have a fever and any of the following symptoms: a severe headache, stiffness in the neck, swelling in the throat or confusion.
Tips and tricks
- If you own a glass thermometer, take the American Academy of Pediatrics’ advice and dispose of it properly. Old style glass thermometers contain mercury, which can cause severe health problems if ingested. Check with your local waste facility to find out how to best dispose of glass thermometers.
- Don’t forget to keep your thermometer clean. Oil from fingers or skin can interfere with your device’s ability to make accurate readings. Rise it off in cold water, then clean it with alcohol and then rinse it again.
- If you’ve just finished a meal or recently consumed a beverage, wait about five minutes before you take a temperature reading. Eating and drinking can affect your body temperature.