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Ear Thermometers - Best For Baby?

Updated on October 24, 2012

What's Your Baby's Temperature?

Babies have less control over their body temperature than adults. You can usually tell that a baby is running a temperature just by putting your hand on their forehead or neck – don’t use the baby’s hands though as the temperature of the extremities can vary from body temperature due to ambient conditions.

Obviously this is just a rough guide to your baby’s temperature. There will be many occasions when you want a more accurate indication. The thing to do is to use a thermometer of course, and there are a number of different types available. Which one is best for you and your baby?


No Contact Forehead Thermometer

Different Types of Thermometer

Traditional Mercury Filled Glass Tube Thermometers
These are fine and are accurate. However, there’s always a risk of breakage and they need to be in place for a certain period of time to get a good reading. They need to be inserted in the mouth, under the arm or in the rectum. None of these are very good options if you have an unhappy, agitated baby as a patient.

Digital Stick Thermometer
Quite similar to a traditional thermometer, but battery operated, made of plastic – not glass – and with a digital read out. Insert under the baby’s arm for thirty seconds and you should get a pretty accurate reading with no operator error due to the digital readout.

Plastic Strip Thermometers
These are placed against your baby’s forehead and held there for around 15 seconds. They change colour to indicate temperature. They are cheap, relatively easy to use and fairly accurate. However, it is possible to misread them. If there is sweat on the forehead, this can affect the accuracy of the reading.

No Contact Scanner Thermometers
Babies don’t like to poked and prodded with strange objects anymore than the rest of us – so no contact scanning thermometers are a good option as they don’t require any contact with the body. No contact thermometers work by taking an infra-red reading of the skins temperature. A good point to do this is at the temple where the skin is very thin. However, perspiration can still have an effect on the accuracy of the reading. Most thermometers of this type will have a digital readout.

Ear Thermometers
The ear is considered to give an accurate reflection of the body’s core temperature and should give you a quick and accurate reading. Most ear thermometers come with disposable caps which you put over the tip and then discard after each use to make it hygienic. Digital readouts are normal and prevent any user error.


Which Type Is Best?

At the end of the day, all of the thermometers listed above will work. Which one you choose will probably depend a lot on your own personal preferences.

If you want to avoid reader error then it's probably best to choose one which has a digital readout.

From the point of view of not upsetting your baby, either a non contact infrared thermometer or an ear thermometer is probably best.

In terms of accuracy, the ear thermometer comes out on top.

So, overall - the baby ear thermometer is probably best - both for baby and for you.


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