A fever thermometer for children is a must on the shopping list for new parents. Many people choose between an infrared forehead thermometer or an ear thermometer.
In this article we will guide you how these two thermometers work and tell you what to look for when buying your baby thermometer. We will go through various pros and cons of each one of them, to help you decide which one is the best fever thermometer for your child.
Why is a fever thermometer necessary?
If you are expecting a child, you know that there is a lot of things you need to prepare for before the child comes. One important such thing, which may not be as fun as choosing wallpaper for your child´s room, is to buy a fever thermometer.
Maybe you already are a parent and have experienced the feeling of hopelessness when your child has a fever and you don’t know exactly how bad it is.
Parents must always be prepared for the child to get sick. We all know that fever in children can strike at any time, often during the late hours of the night and without warning.
Related: How does Sickness Affect Baby Sleep?
As a parent, you don’t want to be taken by surprise – you need to be prepared with a reliable fever thermometer, so you know when to seek medical care for your child.
It is important to have a fever thermometer for your baby; many diseases and health problems starts with fever in children. Imagine how bad it will be if your baby gets their first fever, how uncomfortable she/he must feel. So, make sure you are on the safe side buy measuring your child’s temperature and then take action if needed.
By far the best form of thermometer for children and babies available today are so-called infrared fever thermometers. There come in different variants, but the most common are ear thermometers or forehead thermometers.
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The development of fever thermometers
A lot has happened since we were children ourselves. Who doesn’t remember with horror that terrible and invasive analogue thermometer, in your mouth or in the worst case in your rectum? Not only were you sick, you would have to be still with the thermometer in your mouth, or your bum, for several minutes. Thankfully, a lot has happened since then!
With today’s modern infrared thermometers this process is so much faster, and it often gives more accurate measurement values.
For children, the new types of thermometers: ear thermometer or forehead thermometer, are much more comfortable and less traumatic to use.
When we were young, there was no ear thermometer or forehead thermometer and therefore some parents may be skeptical of this new technology.
There are those who argue that it is the best to use the tools that have always been around, but please listen to the people in health care and those who care for children today – these new thermometers are the best choice for your child.
Which fever thermometer is best?
For newborns and infants younger than three months, a rectal thermometer is considered to provide the most accurate reading. But the relation between exact measurements and discomfort for the child must be taken into account.
Not to mention the aspect of how easy the fever thermometer is to use. In most tests, the difference in the accuracy of fever temperature between a digital old fashioned one and a new infra-red one is actually very small.
Nowadays, there are several different models to choose from and they measure the child’s fever with great accuracy in just a few seconds. The new products include digital ear thermometer, infrared forehead thermometer and even pacifiers with built-in thermometers.
With so many alternatives, it is understandable that parents are confused about what the best fever thermometer for their child is.
Modern thermometers have several different functions that vary from thermometer to thermometer, but the two main points you should always look for in a good fever thermometer are accurate readings and ease of use.
But which fever thermometer is the best for children? Ear thermometer or forehead thermometer?
First, let’s start by looking at the advantages and disadvantages of a standard digital thermometer that’s used either in the mouth, armpit or rectum, and then compare to modern fever thermometers.
Choosing a fever thermometer for baby and child
How do you know which thermometer to choose? It is always scary to buy medical devices as you really want them to work well. Especially when it comes to our children, us parents always want the best possible.
Whether you choose an ear thermometer or a forehead thermometer, you should always look at the user reviews. We ourselves have chosen an ear thermometer because they seem more reliable to use, but that means that we had to neglect some other things that a forehead thermometer does better.
First, let’s have a look at the classic digital fever thermometer and then the pros and cons of each variant.
Classic digital fever thermometer
Common digital thermometers use electronic heat sensors to record the body temperature. These thermometers can be used in the rectum, mouth or armpit.
The temperature in the armpit is usually the least accurate. Rectal temperatures (measuring in the anus) provide the best readings for infants, especially those who are three months or younger, as well as for children up to three years. For older children and adults, oral readings are usually correct – as long as the mouth is closed while the thermometer is in place.
If you plan to use a digital thermometer to take both oral and rectal temperatures, you will need to purchase two separate digital thermometers and label them for oral and rectal use, respectively. Do not use the same thermometer for both places!
Digital thermometer advantages
1. They can be used in different ways
Most digital thermometers can measure temperatures from the mouth, armpit or rectum – often in a minute or less.
2. They can be used regardless of age
A digital thermometer is suitable for newborns, infants, children and adults. They can be used regardless of the size of the ear canal.
Digital fever thermometer disadvantages
1. Uncomfortable for the child
Parents often worry about causing discomfort when taking a child’s temperature with a rectal thermometer. Usually there is no danger, but the child can scream, which hurts even more on us caregivers.
For many children it is difficult to use a mouth thermometer. It can be tricky not to breathe through the mouth (especially when having a stuffy nose) and to keep your mouth closed long enough to get a proper oral reading.
2. It takes longer time to get results
It takes longer time to measure with a digital fever thermometer, both in terms of reading but also when it comes to preparation. You should wait at least 15 minutes after you child eat or drank to take an oral temperature. Otherwise, the temperature of the food or drink may affect the thermometers results.
A forehead thermometer is often called an infrared thermometer because it measures the level of fever by using infrared technology. This type of fever thermometer measures the temperature of the temporal arteries at your child’s forehead. Most models detect any fever by holding the thermometer over your child’s forehead or gently placing the meter lightly against the child’s forehead. See the specific user instructions for your type of model.
Forehead thermometer benefits
1. Easy to use
Hold the thermometer over your child’s forehead or place it light against the forehead. Make sure you read the exact instructions for your specific fever thermometer as the use may vary slightly between different models. A forehead thermometer provides a fever reading that is not intrusive to the child, especially if your child is worried or has fallen asleep. The biggest advantage of this type of fever thermometer is that it is easy to use, if used correctly.
A forehead thermometer allows you to get your child’s fever temperature quickly. Most infrared thermometers emit a small beep when ready. Time is always an important factor when choosing a fever thermometer for children, especially with a sick child, and this type of thermometer ensures that you do not waste valuable time.
3. Can be used to measure other things
Some types of forehead thermometers can be used to measure the temperature of baby food so that you do not feed your child or baby with too hot food or formula. It can also be used to measure the temperature of bath water!
Forehead thermometer disadvantages
An infrared forhead thermometer is the most expensive type of fever thermometer on the market. If you do not want to spend as much money, consider an ear thermometer or a digital mouth thermometer.
2. Varying results and temperatures
You may need to do 2-3 readings and then use the average of them to find out your child’s actual temperature. This is because the temperature readings may vary depending on how you use the thermometer. For most parents, it takes some time and practice to get used to how they work before mastering the art of measuring an exact temperature.
3. Heat sensitive
One of the biggest disadvantages of this type of fever thermometer is that they are heat sensitive (which is also the reason for them being so easy to use). Changes in the environment can affect its accuracy. If your child is sweaty, this type of fever thermometer can give an incorrect reading.
An ear thermometer uses the same type of infrared technology as a forehead thermometer. The ear thermometer reads your child’s temperature by inserting a meter into the child’s ear canal. It is easy to use and provides quick reading. We prefer to use an ear thermometer over all other types of fever thermometers.
Some recommendations say that you can’t use an ear thermometer on a baby before they are six months old, because their ear canals are too small. However, we were able to easily use our fever thermometer on our daughter when she was about four months old (the model we use has different covers).
Ear thermometer benefits
Many models of ear thermometers, including the one from Braun that we use, takes just a few seconds to read the baby’s temperature. The fact that it so quickly is important because the child usually does not like to get something put in the ear (who does?) and also because children have a hard time staying still for a long time.
2. Accurate readings
Placing an ear thermometer correctly in the ear canal provides a very accurate reading and is therefore a reliable way to measure your child’s temperature.
Ear thermometer disadvantages
1. Intrusive and uncomfortable
The ear thermometer must be placed inside your child’s ear canal for proper reading. As a parent, you often need to make your child lie still and tilt its’ head to properly access the ear canal, a process that most children find uncomfortable. The child tumbling around can affect the reliability of the reading.
2. Cannot be used if the child has an ear infection
If your child has an ear infection, you cannot use an ear thermometer. That is because it could irritate and hurt the child. Another thing to keep in mind: if the child has a lot of wax in his / her ears or has slept on the ear that you are measuring, the reading can be affected.
Best in test fever thermometer ear
We have done quite a bit of research to find out which model of ear thermometer was the best.
We have been using our Braun Thermoscan 7 ear thermometer for about 1.5 years now and are very satisfied. It worked great when I got mastitis and also when our daughter got a fever because of new teeth coming up.
We decided on which to buy based on an analyses of numerous tests and customer reviews. This product has a lot of positive reviews on Amazon – which is a great place to do product research as most reviews are written by verified real users. The review reads:
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – This thermometer is worth every penny! It carefully takes the temperature and the colored screen (red / green) alerts you immediately if the child has a fever. We had another thermometer that measured on the forehead and / or ear before we bought this one, but it couldn’t be trusted. With a toddler you need a reliable fever thermometer. It was horrible not to know for sure what my child’s exact temperature was when she had a fever and felt warm. I did not know about Braun Thermoscan 7 when I bought my first thermometer, which cost almost as much but did not give the right temperature from the beginning. I wish I bought a Braun Thermoscan 7 directly instead. I really recommend this product; it is well worth the money.
Average rating: 4.5
What made us choose this particular ear thermometer was partly because of all the tests that it performed well in and partly because of what other parents have written in their user reviews.
Many people confirm that it is very fast and easy to use and that when compared to other models it is unbeatable the best. We also like that it can be used by the whole family and throughout the child’s lifetime as it comes with “covers” for all sizes of ears.
So, if you want to buy an ear thermometer, Braun Thermoscan 7 Irt 6520 is the best buy.
User review – Baby forehead thermometer
The problem with a fever thermometer measuring on the baby’s forehead is that there is so much in the handling of the equipment that can go wrong. Therefore, the user reviews are not very good for the Braun No Touch 400 forehead thermometer, which is a bit undeserved. For example, a user says:
⭐️⭐️⭐️ Works well on my 7-year-old but gives VERY uneven results on my baby. I have returned to using a regular digital thermometer on her for that very reason. Definitely disappointed considering how expensive the product is.
Average Rating: 3.8
So which fever thermometer is the best for children?
Each of these two infrared thermometers has their advantages and disadvantages. As discussed, an ear thermometer can provide very accurate readings with the disadvantage that it may not work well on infants and children who do not accept that you put the meter inside their ear.
For parents with younger children, a forehead thermometer is easier to use because it is not intrusive to the child, but the readings are not so precise. Therefore, you may need to read several times and create an average temperature, but even that may not be correct. Unfortunately, there are many ways to deal with this type of fever thermometer the wrong way.
So, the answer is simply that one fever thermometer is not better than the other, they simply fit differently well for different children. But if you are not sure, we think you should choose an ear thermometer. We recommend Braun Thermoscan 7 which has been very good for us and the price is reasonable.
So, it all comes down to two things:
- Less intrusive but less accurate;
- More intrusive but more accurate.
There is no right or wrong answer, but for us and for many other caregivers the second option. That is why we recommend the ear thermometer for babies and toddlers. Sure, it is a little more inconvenient for the child, but the reading goes quickly, and you get a result closer to the truth. Feel free to discuss with your midwife or other healthcare professionals about which model you should purchase, to be on the safe side.