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If you’re feeling achy or feel your body temperature spike, you may have a fever. But that old hand-to-forehead method your mom used to use, won’t cut it these days. To ensure a more reliable, accurate reading, you’re going to want to use a thermometer.
What You Need to Know About Buying a Thermometer
Symptoms of Fever: A fever can show up in different ways. Sometimes, you feel your body heating up, and you began sweating or feeling flush. Other times, it could be the opposite, with your body experiencing chills or shivering. Other common symptoms include prolong body aches and headaches, or trouble breathing. Occasionally, increased fatigue and lethargy could be a sign of fever as well.
Old school vs. New School: Depending on your age, you may remember those glass thermometers your parents used to keep in their first-aid kit or medicine cabinet. They looked a lot like the thermometers you use to check the weather outside, and back in the day, they also contained the same mercury or red dye found in your weather stations.
These days, you can still find those old school models available online, though they are all mercury-free (in fact, almost two dozen states have banned the sale of mercury thermometers due to the dangerous fumes and toxic gasses that can be released if the unit breaks and mercury gets into the air).
The latest thermometers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, designed to be easier to hold, with larger displays and more features too. Some of the best thermometers will be digital units, that power up via rechargeable or replaceable batteries.
How to Take Your Temperature: There are a number of ways to take your temperature using a thermometer. The most popular way is orally, by inserting the tip of the thermometer into your mouth and holding it under your tongue. This is the most convenient way to get a reading, though improper insertion can often lead to choking and discomfort.
The “axillary” method takes a measurement under your armpit, by placing the thermometer in the center of your armpit and using your arm to squeeze it gently in place. Too much force, however, could throw off the reading. And sweat from your armpit could affect the number as well.
You can also measure your temperature using a “tympanic” or “in-ear” method. Simply insert the thermometer into one ear, until the ear canal is fully sealed off. Hold it still in place until a reading is generated. Make sure your ears are clean (I.e. free from ear wax) before inserting.
The most accurate reading could be a rectal measurement, which is done by inserting the tip of the thermometer into your rectum. As you can imagine, it’s not exactly the most comfortable. If you choose this method, you’ll also want to make sure you clearly label your thermometer so you don’t accidentally use it orally afterwards.
Non-Contact Thermometers: The term “non-contact” thermometer is thrown around a lot these days, and it basically refers to larger, digital thermometers that can get a reading from your forehead. These thermometers are becoming increasingly popular, but don’t let the name fool you: “non-contact” doesn’t always mean no touching. Yes, you can use these thermometers to measure body temperature without touching the forehead, but you’ll have to hold the device less than an inch or two from your skin. Still, for the most accurate measurement, it’s best to press the thermometer’s infrared sensor right up to your forehead, gently tapping it against your skin.
1. Magicelec Forehead Digital Thermometer
There are basic thermometers and then there’s this digital powerhouse, which uses infrared technology and a super sensitive sensor to deliver reliable, accurate readings in as little as one second.
The thermometer can be used by pressing it against your forehead or in your ear. A large LCD display shows your temperature clearly. Toggle easily between celsius and fahrenheit. The display is back-lit too, letting you easily see the numbers in the dark.
Choose from three different measurement modes: child, adult and “environment” mode, which gets you the current temperature in your room. A built-in memory chip keeps track of your last 40 readings, so you can track your progress.
This device is lightweight and easy to grip, but also durable and long-lasting. After you’re done wipe it down with a damp cloth or disinfectant wipe. This thermometer runs on two AAA batteries (not included).
PROS: Easy to use and read. Safe for all ages (even babies). Automatically turns off after 30 seconds of standby to save battery.
CONS: Take a little while to find the “sweet spot” on your forehead. Users advise pressing it gently against your forehead between both of your eyebrows.
2. Medical Oral Thermometer
For a quick and accurate reading, consider picking up this basic medical thermometer, which takes your temperature orally, under the arm, or rectally. Get your results in as little as ten seconds with an accuracy range within 0.2°F. A beeping sound lets you know when your measurement is complete.
The light-up display is easy to read, while the soft and flexible tip won’t choke or poke (the company says it’s ideal for kids and even pets too).
Choose from fahrenheit or celsius mode. The auto-off feature powers down the device automatically after ten minutes of inactivity.
PROS: Waterproof casing means you can easily rinse off the thermometer after use. Made with non-toxic materials, making it safe for kids.
CONS: Readings aren’t as detailed as other devices on our list. This requires oral or rectal insertion while other higher-end models can take a reading from the forehead.
3. Infrared Digital Forehead Thermometer
This is one of the easiest thermometers to use, with three colors that correspond to your fever level. A green light means your temperature is normal; a yellow light suggests a slight fever; and a red light means you have a high fever (and should probably get it checked out). A number reading will appear as well.
This “non-contact” digital thermometer uses infrared technology to read your temperature from your forehead – no oral or rectal insertion necessary.
Other uses for the thermometer include checking the temperature of your food, beverages (I.e. while prepping milk for a baby), your bathtub and the room you’re in.
PROS: Tricolored lighting system makes it easy to tell if you have a fever or not.
CONS: Not as rugged or durable as other models on our list. Some say the parts feel cheap.