How to Choose the Right Thermometer?

No matter how simple a medical device seems, it takes a great deal of research before you buy it. The same applies to the thermometers. As simple as they seem, it is very important that you choose the one that suits your need the best. Today we will talk about thermometers, the ways to use them and the specs that a good thermometer should have. If you feel you need to buy a new thermometer, read on! This thermometer buying guide will certainly help you choose the right pick.

What is a Thermometer?

We all know what thermometers are ever since we were toddlers. The appointments with the pediatrician always commenced with measuring our body temperature with the old-school glass thermometers that we held in our mouth. But it’s been a really long time and thermometers, like any other health monitoring devices have undergone major transformation!

A word of caution though; if you are still using the glass thermometers with mercury, you should get rid of it. Do not throw it away in the trash. Since mercury is highly toxic, it needs to be disposed of safely. You could ask your doctor where can you send the thermometer for disposal like any other hazardous medical waste or you could look it up online.

Choosing the Right Thermometer

So, coming back to the new-fangled thermometers, I recently observed some of them and they have become insanely sophisticated. Gone are the days when you had to struggle to keep the thermometer under your tongue for a couple of minutes to get an accurate reading. The latest thermometers just need a few seconds to measure your body temperature. Not to mention, the new ones are more hygienic to use because not all of them need to be held in the mouth. Oh, and did I tell you these new thermometers are digital?

Types of Thermometers
  • Oral Thermometers

Some digital thermometers are meant to be used orally, i.e., by holding the tip containing the sensor under the tongue. It usually takes 60-90 seconds to produce accurate results. These thermometers have an LED screen and often display the temperature in Fahrenheit. But if you are used to the readings in Celsius, some brands offer those too. They run on a coin cell battery. Starting from INR 170 apiece, they are also easy on the pocket.
The oral thermometers are perfect for use by kids over the age of 4 as well as the adults.
  • Rectal Thermometers

As the name suggests, these thermometers are used to take the rectal temperature. The rectal thermometer is ideal for use by infants and kids under the age of 4. This is because the babies and toddlers are usually very squirmish and lack sufficient motor control to hold the oral thermometers properly in their mouth.

Rectal thermometers are very accurate and offer greater precision than the oral thermometers. Choose the one with a flexible tip. Make sure the tip has a marking that shows how deep the thermometer needs to be inserted into the rectum. It is important that you do not push it in beyond that mark; else it will certainly puncture your child’s rectum.
Before you begin to use it, check with your doctor if the particular rectal thermometer is safe to use for your child. Do not hesitate to ask for doctor’s help if the instructions in the user manual don’t suffice.
  • Axillary Thermometers

Axillary thermometers are used by holding their tip snugly in the armpit. However, this is a very inaccurate way to measure the body’s temperature.
  • Eardrum Thermometers

The eardrum thermometers have been very popular because of their simplicity and precision. The eardrum thermometer measures the infrared radiation stemming from the tissues of the eardrum and produces accurate temperature readings in just about 3 seconds. All you have to do is make the person sit still and gently place the tip of the thermometer into the person’s ear, just at the opening. You do not need to insert the thermometer too deep, just have to place the tip at the opening of the ear canal and wait for the thermometer to beep.

Eardrum thermometers are very accurate and can be used for kids as well as the adults with great ease. Make sure the ear doesn’t have too much wax accumulated in them; else it will cause the thermometer to produce incorrect readings. Also, avoid using eardrum thermometers if the person has undergone ear surgery, or has pain in their ears or an infection.

  •  Temporal Artery Thermometers
These are by far the best kind of thermometers. I was thoroughly impressed by the temporal artery thermometer when I recently visited my physician. All he did was just hold the thermometer against my forehead for 3 seconds and beep! There it was! A 101° F!

The temporal artery thermometers have an infrared scanner that measures the temperature of the temporal artery in the forehead of the person. It is accurate, convenient, hygienic and really quick. These could be a bit expensive but worth every penny.

If using the temporal thermometer for babies, be sure you double check its readings against those produced by a rectal thermometer.
  • Pacifier Thermometers / Nipple Thermometer

These are the thermometers with the sensor embedded within the pacifier. It’s easy to use for taking your baby’s temperature orally. Like we mentioned earlier, oral thermometers are less accurate than rectal thermometers. That is why, most doctors suggest not using these.
  • Multipurpose Thermometers

As the name suggests, these digital thermometers are designed to use any which way you prefer, whether orally, rectally or axillary. Just make sure that when you buy one of these, you use it in one specific way only. Otherwise, it would spread bacteria and affect the health of the users.

Whatever thermometer you choose, make sure they have a nice, clear LED screen for easy readability. Almost all models come with a beeper to indicate that the thermometer has measured the temperature and can be withdrawn. The auto shut-off feature would be nice to have, as it helps save battery. You could spend a little more and get a thermometer which has a memory and stores the previous temperature readings. It will help you understand which way the temperature of the user is moving, whether the fever has increased or subsided. 

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