Thermometers

There are various ways to monitor your child’s temperature, including; Oral, Ear, Auxiliary and Rectal. The pro’s and con’s of each are discussed briefly below.

Oral

Oral thermometers are the traditional method of taking temperature but the advent of cheap Ear thermometers has more-or-less rendered this method obsolete.  They are also slightly ‘optimistic’ giving typically 0.5° C / 1° F lower readings than Ear or Rectal.

Ear

Ear thermometers are by far the most popular method reported in the community and their accuracy is somewhere inbetween Oral and Rectal.  However, caution needs to be exercised with their use as they are still subject to environmental / situational conditions such as:

  • A recent exposure to cold conditions by your child significantly reduces the in-ear temperature so you should wait 5-10 minutes after their return to room temperature before taking a reading.  Conversely, exposure to elevated temperatures such as heated pools and solariums will increase the in-ear temperature.
  • At nighttime a recently ‘down’ ear that was against the child’s bedding will typically produce a 0.5° C / 1° F higher reading than the ‘up’ ear if they have just turned over, so again, wait 5-10 minutes after turning over before taking a reading.
  • The use of the cold thermometer tip in the ear itself reduces the measured temperature slightly each time if multiple measurements in the same are taken in quick succession.  So while, confirmation readings should be taken it is advised to still wait 5-10 minutes between each measurement in each ear.
  • Each ear will often exhibit quite different readings so an average of the ear temperatures is often a better indicator than taking the highest or the lowest of each ear.

Auxiliary

Auxiliary thermometers is more a “hand on the forehead” and summarises the following methods:

  • Armpit thermometer readings tend to be the most ‘optimistic’, giving typically 0.5° C / 1° F lower readings that Oral readings and a further 0.5° C / 1° F lower readings than Ear or Rectal.
  • Forehead thermometers work by measuring the surface temperature via infrared laser at a small distance from the forehead.  So they are the least invasive method of taking temperature as ‘no contact’ is actually made with your child but as they are skin temperature thermometers they are even more subject to environmental / situational conditions as mentioned above for Ear thermometers.
  • Plastic strip thermometers such as Fever Bugz® are not usually recommended by GPs but the community has cited a lot of positives about these.  They are obviously one of the least invasive method of taking a temperature given that the readings can be taken at a glance and while it is recommended to place the sticker on the child’s forehead, between the shoulder blades is less prone to unwanted attention / removal.
  • Recently, several wireless auxiliary thermometers have entered the market providing continuous temperature monitoring to your iPhone/iPad and/or remotely over the internet.  Four examples are the Fever Smart (armpit), Raiing (fixed to side under arm), Cadi. Sense (affixes to a garment rather than the skin directly) and MSR (uses an armband and then adhesive strip under the armpit).

Rectal

Rectal thermometers purport to be the most accurate approach to taking temperature but they are the most invasive method and few members of the Community purport to use them.