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The Differences Between Baby Thermometers

By Sara Ipatenco ; Updated September 26, 2017
Always have a digital thermometer handy.

When your baby is burning up, one of the first moves you probably make is to reach for the thermometer. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using a digital thermometer to get an accurate reading, but you have several options when it comes to which thermometer to use. Weigh the pros and cons and select the thermometer that you feel is right for your baby.

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Digital thermometers are usually the cheapest option for taking your baby's temperature, which is one of the reasons why they're also among the most commonly used in households with children. You might be able to get one of these thermometers for as little as $3. These thermometers can take your child's temperature in her mouth, in her rectum or under her armpit. Digital thermometers have easy-to-read displays, making them a handy and quick way to determine your child's temperature. The drawback to some digital thermometers is that they aren't always accurate, especially if your baby is trying to spit one out or is trying to get the thermometer out of her rectum or out from under her arm. Pacifier thermometers are another type of digital thermometer and they take your baby's temperature as she sucks on the pacifier.

Temporal Artery

A temporal artery, or forehead, thermometer scans the artery that runs across your baby's forehead. These thermometers use infrared technology to get a fast reading, which makes them one of the most convenient options for parents. One drawback, according to HealthyChildren.org, is that temporal artery thermometers aren't as accurate in babies under 3 months of age. They are also more expensive than digital thermometers and run as low as $25 dollars to more than $100.


Tympanic thermometers are the ones you see in pediatrician offices most often, and they take your baby's temperature by sticking the tip into her ear canal. They can take a temperature in as little as one second, which is why doctors rely on them. Tympanic thermometers aren't always accurate, however, because if your baby has ear wax or if the tip isn't positioned properly, it can affect the reading. These aren't reliable for babies under 6 months of age either, according to HealthyChildren.org. These types of thermometers are more expensive than digital versions.


Opt for one of these types of thermometers over a glass and mercury version, which is probably what you remember from your childhood. While they will still provide an accurate temperature reading, they aren't recommended any longer because they can break, which will release mercury, according to MayoClinic.com. No matter what type of thermometer you choose, clean and sanitize it before and after each use. Use warm, soapy water or rubbing alcohol to kill germs and prevent their spread to other members of your family. If you take your baby's temperature rectally, reserve a special thermometer for that. Even if you sanitize it, don't use a thermometer that you've used rectally to take your baby's temperature in her mouth.

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About the Author

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.

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