Thermometers: Choosing a Device

There are many types of thermometers on the market today and it can be overwhelming deciding which device to choose. I am here to guide you to the correct device for your child and help you properly use it.

Thermometer types:

  • Temporal (Forehead) Thermometers:
    • How it works: uses an inferred scanner to measure the temperature of the artery that runs just below the skin and along the forehead.


    • For children 3 months and older. Can be used on adults.
    • How to take a temp: Place the thermometer on the forehead, press the button and hold while sliding the thermometer across the child’s forehead. Release the button and read the display screen. Please read the directions that came with the device as different models can require different steps!
    • Pros:
      • This is the newest form of thermometer and research is still being conducted but some studies have suggested that it is the most accurate alternative to a rectal thermometer.
      • Can easily be used while child is sleeping
    • Cons:
      • The most expensive type of thermometer on the market (about $60)
      • Instruction can be confusing as there are many different types of temporal thermometers.


  • Digital (Oral, Axillary, or Rectal) Thermometers:
    • How it works: use electronic heat sensors to measure temperature.
    • Oral (Mouth):


      • For children 5 years and older. They must be able to follow instructions properly.
      • How to take a temp: place the tip of the thermometer under one side of the child’s tongue and towards the back of their mouth. Their lips must be pressed together the entire time and they must not talk during the measurement.
      • Do not allow them to drink 30 minutes before taking the temperature.
    • Axillary (Armpit):
      • For infants 0-3 months. Considered most inaccurate measurement for those older than 3 months (90 days).
      • How to take a temp: place the tip of the thermometer in a dry armpit. Close their armpit by having them put their elbow across their body and against their chest. Remove when the device signals.
    • Rectal (Bottom):


      • For children 0-5 years. Considered most accurate measurement as it is an internal temperature.
      • How to take a temp: have the child lie down on their stomach or on their back with their legs in the air. Apply water based lubricant to the tip of the thermometer and insert the thermometer gently into the bottom hole (anus). Only insert the tip about ¼ to ½ inch for children 0-6 months and 1 inch for 6 months-5 years. Remove when device signals.
      • **NOT normally recommended by healthcare providers for home use as it is relatively easy to perforate (puncture) the colon and/or cause damage to the tissues of the rectum.


  • Tympanic (Ear) Thermometers:
    • How it works: an infrared ray measures the temperature inside the ear canal.


    • For children 6 months and above. Can be used on adults.
    • How to take a temp: Pull the ear backward and up to straighten canal and gently place the thermometer in the child’s ear. Aim the probe towards the eye on the opposite side of the head and press the button. Remove when device signals.
    • ear good  CORRECT insertion of thermometer
      • pulling ear backwards and up straightens the ear canal.)
    • Incorrect  INCORRECT insertion of thermometer
      • **Incorrect use (not pulling the ear backwards and up) will cause inaccurate measurements.