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Amrita Nandagopal
Amrita Nandagopal

The Heat Is On: Find The Best Baby Thermometer

With so many different thermometers out there, it's not easy to know which is best for baby. Read our quick guide to help you find the best baby thermometer to add to your first-aid kit.

Dealing with baby’s first fever can be pretty scary, which is why you need to have the best baby thermometer in your first-aid kit. Any fever over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit is serious business, especially if baby is less than three months old. Since the ‘touch test’ is not always reliable or precise and baby can’t tell you how s/he feels, a baby thermometer that is specifically devised to measure and display baby’s temperature is the best way to find out if you need to make a trip to the emergency room, call your pediatrician or just adopt a wait-and-watch policy.

But with so many different types of thermometers—oral, rectal, infrared, multiuse—it’s not easy to choose what kind of thermometer is best for babies. The Bump is here to help you find the best baby thermometer for your needs, so we’ve rounded up some of the top-rated baby thermometers on the market today. But before we move on to our best baby thermometer reviews, here are a few safety precautions you need to keep in mind while measuring baby’s temperature.

Baby Thermometer Safety

Just say no to baby thermometers with mercury – Do you remember the old-fashioned glass thermometers that your mother used to stick under your tongue when you had a fever? If you have any at home, throw them out right now! In addition to the dangers posed by broken glass, these thermometers contain mercury, which is highly poisonous and the last thing you want near baby.

  • Avoid pacifier thermometers. Pacifier thermometers are not very accurate and take a comparatively long time—about three to five minutes—to measure baby’s temperature. Also, poorly made pacifier thermometers can pose a choking hazard to baby.
  • Use oral thermometers for older kids only. Oral thermometers are most suitable for children who are four years or older and can keep the device firmly in their mouths.
  • Keep your baby thermometer clean. Whether you choose a rectal thermometer, an ear thermometer or a forehead thermometer, keep it clean! You don’t want your baby thermometer to reintroduce germs to baby after s/he recovers from a fever. Also, if you have a multiuse thermometer, try to designate it for just one use—rectal, oral or underarm—to avoid transferring bacteria.
  • Read instructions first. For the most accurate measurements, read the instructions carefully before using a new thermometer to check baby’s temperature.
  • Don’t leave baby alone. Never leave baby unattended while you are checking his or her temperature.

Best Baby Thermometer All-Around

If you haven’t yet had to deal with baby’s first fever, consider yourself lucky. Don’t hate us for saying this, but there’s a good chance that it’ll happen at least once before baby’s first birthday. While a fever by itself may or may not be serious, it is a sign that the body is fighting an infection.

So, if you wake up one night to find your little one crying and all hot and flushed, don’t panic. Take a deep breath and check for other symptoms such as a rash, vomiting or a runny nose. The best baby thermometer will be fast, accurate and safe, efficiently allowing you to confirm a fever before calling your doctor or rushing to the ER.

Here’s our pick for the all-around best baby thermometer you can buy today!

Braun No Touch Plus Forehead Thermometer NTF3000US, $60, amazon.com

The No Touch Plus Forehead Thermometer is the ultimate in convenience and technology and has two safe and easy methods to take baby’s temperature readings—non-contact and forehead. It also has a backlit, color-coded display and a positioning system that makes it the top baby thermometer for many parents. And it’s a Braun product—need we say more?

Pros:

  • Non-invasive and easy to use
  • Provides fast, accurate results using both forehead and non-contact methods
  • Has provision to mute sounds
  • Can be used for older children, too
  • Hygienic—doesn’t have to be cleaned after every use

Cons:

  • Have to remove batteries to change scale from Fahrenheit to Celsius
  • Not as accurate as rectal thermometers for newborns
  • Readings may be affected by ambient temperature

Best Baby Thermometer – Rectal

Since any fever over 100.4 F is cause for concern in newborns, you want a device that can give you the closest measurement of baby’s core body temperature. As much as it makes us cringe to say it, rectal thermometers are considered the best newborn thermometers because of their high degree of accuracy. Your pediatrician is likely to recommend using a rectal thermometer for baby until s/he is at least three months old. You can make the process as gentle as possible by applying a bit of water-soluble jelly (make sure it is safe for baby’s sensitive skin!) on the probe before insertion.

Vicks Baby Rectal Thermometer, $10, amazon.com

The Vicks Baby Rectal Thermometer takes the worry out of using a baby rectal thermometer on your newborn with a safe, baby-friendly design and a short probe that makes it next to impossible to insert the thermometer too far inside. Also, it gives quick readings, which is a huge boon when you have a sick, wiggly baby who is in no mood to stay put!

Pros:

  • Measures temperature in 10 seconds
  • Saves last reading
  • Provides consistent results
  • Backlit display

Cons:

  • Some Amazon reviewers have complained that the battery died out after a few uses
  • Not waterproof. May stop functioning if water leaks into the device during cleanup.

Best Baby Thermometer – Non-Contact

It’s bad enough when baby has a fever and feels miserable, so the easier the temperature-taking method, the better. A non-contact thermometer makes the whole process easier – both for you and for baby. Just hold the thermometer two to four inches from baby’s forehead, press the button and scan.

Dr. Madre Non-Contact Forehead Infrared Thermometer, $30, amazon.com

Pros:

  • Provides instant readings
  • Saves up to 12 readings
  • Talking function can be turned off
  • Can also be used to measure room temperature
  • Comes with a 2-year manufacturer warranty and a 30-day money-back guarantee

Cons:

  • Beeps loudly while taking temperature
  • Some users have reported inconsistent temperature readings

Best Baby Thermometer – Forehead

Forehead thermometers, or temporal artery thermometers, are generally on the higher end of the price scale, but they are also one of the most comfortable and convenient ways to measure baby’s temperature. All you need to do is push the button, swipe the thermometer gently across baby’s forehead from the center to the hairline, and release the button. The infrared waves will measure the temperature of the temporal artery in baby’s forehead and give you the reading in a matter of seconds!

Exergen Temporal Scan Forehead Artery Baby Thermometer, $28, amazon.com

Pros:

  • Provides quick, two- to three-second readings
  • More accurate than ear or underarm thermometers
  • Can be used on sleeping babies without waking them up
  • Suitable for the entire family
  • Saves last eight readings
  • Doesn’t make baby uncomfortable, unlike rectal or ear thermometers
  • Backed by many clinical studies

Cons:

  • Not very easy to use. In the beginning, parents may need a few practice runs to get consistent, accurate readings.
  • Results may be affected by extreme changes in room temperature. For best results, allow the thermometer to sit for a few minutes before you use it.

Best Baby Thermometer – Ear

Ear thermometers (tympanic thermometers) may not be quite as fantastic as forehead scanners, but most pediatricians feel they are more accurate. As you may have guessed from the name, the ear thermometer has a sensor that has to be inserted into baby’s ear canal. The sensor reads the infrared heat waves released by the eardrum and provides an accurate reading.

While all this sounds good, here are a couple of downsides to an ear thermometer. You may get inaccurate readings if baby has too much earwax or if the probe is dirty. Also, an ear thermometer provides an accurate reading only when it is positioned properly inside baby’s ear. You have to remember to pull back the upper portion of baby’s ear to open up the ear canal each time you measure the temperature, so you may have to do a few readings before you get it right.

Braun Thermoscan5 Ear Thermometer, $35, amazon.com

When you use the Thermoscan5 Ear Thermometer, you can stop worrying about whether you’ve positioned the device correctly in baby’s ear, because this best baby ear thermometer will tell you if you haven’t!

The Thermoscan5 Ear thermometer has a unique guidance system that confirms correct positioning with a light and beep alert. Also, it comes with a pre-warmed, flexible tip that reduces the cooling effect of room-temperature tips on the ear canal and provides accurate results every time. No wonder this Braun baby thermometer is one of the most widely used infrared thermometers by healthcare professionals!

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Measures temperature in seconds
  • Disposable lens covers increase accuracy and prevent the spread of germs between readings
  • Small, flexible tip makes measurement gentle on baby

Cons:

  • Does not have a backlit screen
  • Failure to change lens filter before each reading may result in inaccurate measurements. Additional filters costs around $6 for a 40-count box.
  • Ability to save only one previous reading
  • Doesn’t have a color-coded temperature display
  • It is the best ear thermometer for infants over six months old. However, it is not advised for newborns.

Best Baby Thermometer – Affordability

You don’t want to waste time trying to find the one and only baby thermometer you have when you’re faced with an emergency, and you don’t want to use one that has not been designed with baby’s size and shape in mind. If you have a baby at home, you need a back-up baby thermometer. And the good news is, you don’t have to drop a bundle to buy one that works just fine!

Safety 1st 3-in-1 Nursery Thermometer, $5, target.com

Pros:

  • Oral, underarm or rectal use
  • Over-insertion gauge
  • Affordable
  • Saves last reading

Cons:

  • Basic baby thermometer
  • Not as fast as forehead thermometers
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