A thermometer is a must-have in every family; especially one that is accurate and reliable. Someone is bound to fall sick at some point and this is why you need a working thermometer at home to help you monitor body temperatures especially during a fever.
Back in the days, the glass and mercury thermometer was a common sight; you would see them in hospitals and clinics. But we have come a long way since then, with newer types of thermometers that are far better, safer and more efficient. Here are some of the different types of thermometers you can get in the market today.
Digital thermometers are the cheapest option that you can buy. It is a very straight forward and accurate thermometer plus you can find them easily in just about any pharmacy. You can read a person’s temperature by taking a reading from under the tongue, rectum or under the armpit. Depending on which ones you buy, some require you to wait for an average of 10-15 seconds before giving you an accurate reading. It is great for adults and older kids who can follow instructions on keeping still, but a challenge to use with a screaming, squirming baby or toddler.
Electronic Ear Thermometers
A relatively good electronic ear thermometer can range anything from RM150 all the way to RM400. They provide instant reading thanks to the use of infrared technology. No doubt they are on the expensive side, however, they are far more convenient to use on squirmy babies and young children compared to digital thermometers. Some even come with an added attachment so that parents can use it as a forehead thermometer instead.
Just like ear thermometers, forehead thermometers also measure body temperature using infrared and as the name suggests, they are placed on the forehead instead. This is because a forehead thermometer measures temperature at the temporal artery, which is directly connected to the heart. It is the constant blood flow that helps the forehead thermometer read a more accurate measurement.
Prices range anything from RM30 to RM500 depending on the brand, quality and features. They usually provide almost instant reading, is less invasive and cause less distress to children than conventional thermometers. Forehead thermometers are great because they can be contact-free and still read temperature over other parts of the body. This reduces the risk of cross-infection and the spread of germs.
Plastic strip thermometers
This picture was taken from Shopee
Rarely do we see plastic strip thermometers anymore, but they are super cheap and still available in the market. It is a plastic strip that contains liquid crystals that changes colour in the presence of a fever although they do not provide an accurate temperature reading. When using these plastic strip thermometers, one just needs to place the strip on the forehead. Plus points include being able to carry them around everywhere you go and discarding them after use. But you need to be mindful that they only measure skin temperature and not body temperature.
This picture was taken from Shopee
While inventing the pacifier thermometer is quite ingenious, they do come with quite a lot of cons. First of all, they can only be used by babies older than 3 months of age. On top of that, babies have to hold the pacifier thermometer still in their mouths for 3-5 minutes to get the most accurate reading. We all know that keeping babies and young children still for 1 minute is hard enough. So even though studies find them an acceptable method of temperature approximation, they do not support the accuracy of these thermometers.
Glass and mercury thermometers
The granddaddy of all thermometers are the glass and mercury ones but their usage has since been discouraged due to the risk of mercury poisoning. However, since we’re learning about different types of thermometers, this is purely for general knowledge. To use it, you place the glass thermometer under your tongue for what seems like ages and watch the mercury slowly creep up. When it stops climbing, that would be your temperature.
1. Which reading is most accurate?
Out of the 5 ways that you can read body temperature, the most accurate is the Rectal method although parents tend to steer away from this invasive practice. The second most accurate is via Forehead (Temporal Artery) followed by Oral (under the tongue) and via the Ear (Tympanic) if done properly. Temperature readings taken from the armpit (axillary) are the least accurate.
2. Do I need to add anything for the most accurate body temperature reading?
Yes, you do! Oral and axillary temperature readings are about .3°C to .6°C below rectal. So when you’re taking oral and axillary temperature readings, add these numbers back for the most accurate reading.
3. How often should I be checking my child’s temperature during a fever?
Whenever your child is having fever, he or she might be given medication to reduce the fever which is usually taken once in every 4 to 6 hours. So before your child is due for another dose, this is the best time to check their temperature to see if the medicine is really needed.
If they are really running a very high fever, it would be best to check once or twice in an hour. This is one way to see if the medication is working and if you should continue to keep sponging to try to bring down their body temperature or to get ready the dreaded suppository. It would be helpful to keep a record of the temperature readings so that you can report back to your family doctor or paediatrician.
4. Do I need to clean my thermometer?
Yes, it is good practice to clean any thermometer before and after you use it. Rectal digital thermometers should be clearly labelled so as not to be confused for an oral or axillary thermometer. The tips should always be kept clean with soap and water or with alcohol before and after use.
Ear and forehead thermometers can be wiped with alcohol. Some ear thermometers even come with a protective sleeve. You should also wipe the body of the thermometer with alcohol from time to time. Remember to store them properly in the case they came in (if any) and put them away safely in a dry place where they can be found easily.