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Lauren Kay

Kinsa Smart Stick Thermometer Review

See why this digital thermometer might deserve a place in your medicine cabinet.

Pros
• Records and stores temperatures and health data for the whole family
• Easy to use app interface
• Sleek, flexible, battery-free design

Cons
• Must be connected to your phone to use
• Cannot sync across devices
• You must be extremely still for temperature read
• Inconsistent results depending on patient

Bottom Line
Though a bit too tricky to use on a newborn or young baby, the sleek design and easy-to-use interface for the adjoining app make the Kinsa Smart Stick thermometer a great choice for families with older toddlers and children. And its ability to record and store valuable health information make it an ideal alternative to traditional, battery-operated thermometers.

Rating: 4 stars

Fever is a real fear for parents, especially in the first few months of baby’s life when a spike in temperature can mean an automatic hospital stay. So a thermometer is arguably one of the most essential items in the medicine cabinet. My son spent some time after birth in the NICU, where his temperature was monitored every two hours, and while I didn’t intend to continue this round-the-clock practice at home, it was important to me to have a reliable thermometer on hand—so much so I bought four of them! I decided to give the Kinsa Smart Stick a try when my son was just over 11 months old—very active compared with his newborn days, but still a baby.

Features

The Kinsa thermometer operates exclusively through your smartphone, connecting to your device through the headphone jack. Since it’s powered by the phone, there’s no battery so the thermometer itself is lightweight and super flexible.

The corresponding health tracker app (free to download for both iPhone and Android) records to-the-minute temperature readings, symptoms and can even log medication dosages—super helpful if you’re up all night with a sick child and have foggy brain the next morning. You can create a color-coded profile for each child (or adult), making this device a truly family-friendly product. The app also offers guidance (fever-reducer recommendations, next steps if symptoms worsen, when to call the doctor) based on baby’s age and temperature. And, if you have a school-aged child, you can join a community group through the app to get real time updates of reported illnesses at their school. You can also send messages to other parents in the group to help you determine if symptoms point to a common cold or perhaps a case of the flu based on illnesses logged by neighboring moms and dads. Unfortunately there aren’t groups in every area yet (your school has to be chosen by Kinsa) but I really hope these will catch on and continue to grow.

Performance

A temperature reading typically takes 10 seconds or less—very quick. If the thermometer moves while a temperature is being calculated, the app notifies you to reposition for a more accurate reading. It was extremely easy to use on myself, and I found that my temperature readings taken orally were very consistent. But I must admit they were less so when I was using the underarm method on my son. In all fairness he’s 11 months old and has a hard time sitting or lying still, which resulted in “out of range” errors on several attempts of placing it under his arm. However, the rectal temperatures were very accurate the few times I used it that way. When tested against my other thermometers, the overall readings were fairly consistent. I found under-the-tongue readings to be the most accurate, making this thermometer a good choice for a family with slightly older children.

There was one time I was using it where I had to relaunch the app, but I think that was more a function of my iPhone (it’s an older model) and not the product itself. I’m not sure how it works with an Android though.

Design

The design of the thermometer and app interface are spot-on for the modern parent. The Kinsa thermometer wand is sleek, easy to hold and even easier to clean—paramount when dealing with germs and squirmy kids. And the flexible tip makes taking a rectal temperature (what most pediatricians recommend for babies) seemingly more comfortable. As I mentioned before, the thermometer connects to your smartphone through the headphone jack, but there’s also a small extension cord provided that makes it easier to see the screen on your phone while taking a temperature (great for underarm and rectal readings).

The app interface is very user friendly and setup was a breeze. Once you've given each family member a color-coded profile, it's easy to log temperatures (down to the minute) and symptoms. You can also add details like additional notes on symptoms or a doctor diagnosis and upload photos, which could come in handy if baby has a disappearing rash you want to share with your doctor at your next visit. Though there’s no way to send the images via the app, you can easily just bring your phone to baby’s sick/well visit and have all the info at your fingertips for your doctor to read.

Lastly the app also has a fun in-progress screen with graphic bubbles that kids can "pop" while you wait for a temperature reading. It kept my son’s attention—almost long enough to get an accurate read. But it would be perfect for a slightly older child who has the discipline to sit still but could still benefit from a distraction.

Summary

Both adults and parents of small children (3 to 10) will love this thermometer. The app’s ability to log important health information makes this a worthwhile device for the medicine cabinet. And the connection to communities aims to track the spread of illness in a school or neighborhood in real time—a game changer during flu season.

Lauren Kay lives in New York City with her son and husband. She is the Senior Style Editor for The Knot. When she's not writing about flowers or taste-testing wedding cake, she's scouting the city's parks and museums for adventures to have with the energetic boys in her life.