The best thermometer
Every household should own a thermometer, as it's an essential tool for times of illness, especially if you have children. It allows you to monitor the patient's body temperature and seek help in a timely manner if it gets dangerously high -- otherwise it's all just guesswork.
Read this guide to learn more about thermometers. Our top thermometer is the Braun Thermoscan3 Ear Thermometer. It returns accurate readings in just one second with minimal contact required. The clear backlit screen is easy to read the results from.
Considerations when choosing thermometers
You can find various types of thermometers on the market, but the most common are digital stick thermometers, in-ear thermometers, and temporal artery thermometers.
Digital stick thermometers are perhaps the widest-used of all home thermometers. You can use them to take temperatures either orally, rectally, or under the armpit. They're simple to use and inexpensive but can retrieve results slower than other types of thermometers.
In-ear thermometers must be inserted gently into the outer ear to take temperature readings. They generally return results quickly and are great for taking kids' temperatures, but they give inaccurate readings for babies under six months.
Temporal artery thermometers use infrared light to read the temperature of the temporal artery on the forehead. They give accurate results, even on newborn babies. They're simple to use on others, but can be tricky to position correctly to take your own temperature. What's more, they can be expensive.
Some high-end thermometers return temperature readings in a single second, which is a godsend when taking the temperature of an impatient child. However, on the other end of the spectrum, some thermometers are frustratingly slow to return results, taking up to a minute.
You can find thermometers that feature either pre-warmed or flexible tips for comfort. This is great for kids or for anyone who needs to regularly monitor their temperature and would prefer a more comfortable experience.
The majority of modern thermometers have some kind of fever alarm -- a series of bleeps that sound when the results returned indicate a fever. Occasionally, they let out a different number of bleeps for an elevated temperature that doesn't quite come into the fever range.
A backlit display lets you see the results on the LCD screen more clearly in a darkened room.
You can find digital stick thermometers for as little as $5 to $10, whereas high-end home thermometers can cost up to $50. Professional-grade thermometers can cost even more, sometimes up to $100.
Q. What's the best type of thermometer to use for kids?
A. From around age four to five, the majority of children will hold a digital stick thermometer in their mouths or under their arm for a short period of time, but it can be trickier to get an accurate reading from little kids. In-ear digital thermometers are a good bet for wriggly toddlers and older babies, but don't give accurate results in babies under six months old. Before six months of age, use a temporal artery thermometer or take your baby's temperature rectally with a digital stick thermometer.
Q. How should I clean my thermometer between uses?
A. You should wash the tip of in-ear and digital stick thermometers between uses to keep them sanitary. Although you can use rubbing alcohol, it isn't necessary in most cases. Simply wash the thermometer tip with cold, soapy water and dry it before putting it away.
Thermometers we recommend
Best of the best: Braun Thermoscan3 Ear Thermometer
Our take: A reliable and speedy in-ear thermometer that's great for kids and adults alike.
What we like: Fever alarm alerts you of a high temperature, as well as slightly elevated readings. "Lens filters" keep the tip clean. Extremely simple to use.
What we dislike: Occasional reports of inaccurate readings.
Best bang for your buck: Enji 10-Second Digital Thermometer
Our take: A simple digital stick thermometer at an affordable price. Versatile and accurate.
What we like: Readings returned in just 10 seconds. Choose between oral, rectal, and underarm readings. Flexible tip. Waterproof for easier cleaning.
What we dislike: The beep that lets you know a reading has been returned is too quiet.
Choice 3: iProven Medical Digital Ear Thermometer
Our take: Not only does this thermometer take in-ear temperatures, it can also be used for temporal artery readings on the forehead.
What we like: Can record 20 past temperature readings. Lights up green for normal temperatures and red for elevated temperatures. Forehead mode accurate from birth.
What we dislike: A handful of reports of inaccuracy, but likely to be a small number of defective models.
Lauren Corona is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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