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Types of Thermometers

Digital thermometers

You can get the fastest and most accurate results with a digital thermometer. They are available in many shapes and sizes at different locations, such as grocery stores and pharmacies. Be sure to read the instructions given to you with the thermometer so that you can get the most accurate results; this also goes for any other type of thermometer you may use. There is a sensor on the end of the thermometer that touches the body part and reads the body’s temperature. You can use a digital thermometer in three ways:

  • Oral (in the mouth)
  • Rectal (in the bottom)
  • Axillary (under the arm)

Do not use the same thermometer for both oral and rectal readings. Be sure to label your thermometer either “oral” or “rectal” to know the difference.

Electronic ear thermometer

This thermometer measures the temperature inside of the ear. It will read the infrared heat that comes from inside of the ear. Make sure place the thermometer inside of the ear in the right way for the best results. For older babies and children they can be quicker and easier to use. If the baby is three months or younger the results might be incorrect. If there is too much wax in the ear it can also make the reading of the temperature be incorrect. Ear thermometers are also more expensive.

Forehead thermometers

This is also used to measure temperature, but they may not be as reliable as the digital thermometers. Forehead thermometers are placed on the temporal artery of the forehead and will read the infrared heat that comes off of the head.

Plastic “fever” strip thermometers

If you are looking for an exact temperature this is NOT what you should use. They come in small plastic strips and you place them on the forehead. You cannot rely on these for taking a temperature, especially for infants and young children.

Pacifier thermometer

When an infant is younger than three months you cannot use a pacifier thermometer to take their temperature. The baby must be still for a few minutes with the pacifier in their mouth. It is generally very hard for babies to stay very still and this may make the reading on the thermometer wrong.

Glass and mercury thermometers

This is a glass tube with mercury inside of the tube. The tube goes underneath the tongue and the body temperature will cause the mercury to rise inside the tube. The point where the mercury stops will be what your temperature is. Once, a very popular way to take a temperature, it has been realized that these thermometers now create the risk of exposure to mercury. You are encouraged to rid your home of all mercury thermometers. DO NOT just throw away a mercury thermometer. You should consult with your doctor or your local health department for the right way to dispose of the thermometer.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 4/1/2013…#15272

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