The 8 Best Thermometers
This wiki has been updated 22 times since it was first published in March of 2015. Thanks to modern developments in heat-reading technology, we no longer have to stick mercury-filled tubes in our children's mouths to monitor their health. Now you can safely keep an eye on anyone's well-being using high-tech thermometers that are much more accurate and come with all sorts of useful features. From no-touch infrared models to smartphone-enabled units, we've got you covered. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best thermometer on Amazon.
Body Temperature: A Window Into Human Health
The average human body temperature hovers at around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, though this number is a broad generalization.
On the other hand, a fever can merit extreme worry or it can indicate a healthy response to a mild illness.
The human body has myriad ways of displaying the presence of affliction. From pallid skin to an elevated heart rate, from shortness of breath to confusion or exhaustion, or from sweating to nausea, just to name a few, the body exhibits various symptoms when it is in distress caused by a virus, bacteria, injury, poisoning, and so forth. A proper diagnosis of the underlying causes of these and other symptoms begins with identifying them as issues in the first place. And there are few better ways to confirm a perceived symptomatic issue than by checking a person's temperature.
The average human body temperature hovers at around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, though this number is a broad generalization. A perfectly healthy individual's body standard resting temperature may be as much as a full degree higher or lower. It's important to know your own average temperature (or the temperature of your child or anyone in your care) so you can establish your personal baseline for health. Take your temperature every now and then when you are displaying no signs of illness, you have not recently been exercising or otherwise exerting yourself, and when you are in an environment that approximates room temperature. Be sure to record the results until you have clearly established your average personal temperature.
While more often than not we take a person's temperature to look for a fever, also be aware of the causes of and risks associated with low body temperature. While the most obvious causes of a reduced body temperature are exposure to cold weather or wet conditions, a low body temperature can also indicate anything from kidney failure and sepsis to the effects of protracted insomnia. Do not overlook the potential danger indicated by a lower than average body temperature.
On the other hand, a fever can merit extreme worry or it can indicate a healthy response to a mild illness. It's important to know when to worry about fever and when to simply tell a patient to rest and relax.
Better Know A Fever
A fever is one of the human body's best ways to combat a virus or bacteria. If an adult or older child is otherwise healthy and their fever stays in a moderate range, breaks within a few days, and is not accompanied by other worrying symptoms, there may be nothing more for the patient to do than relax, stay hydrated, and wait it out.
Elevated or protracted fevers, or a fever in a smaller child or elderly person, however, can present a host of issues.
Also pay close attention to other symptoms including swelling of the throat, neck stiffness, cognitive impairment, nausea, or muscular issues including weakness or seizure.
Until a healthy adult's fever surpasses the 103 degree Fahrenheit mark or the three day time period, it is likely not a cause for major concern. A fever above 103 merits a visit to a medical facility or in home review by a trained professional. A fever lasting many days is also not to be ignored, even if it comes and goes throughout the day or night. Also pay close attention to other symptoms including swelling of the throat, neck stiffness, cognitive impairment, nausea, or muscular issues including weakness or seizure.
When a child younger than three months has a fever over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, it's time to get a doctor involved. Between three months and a year, that number creeps up a bit to a fever of 102 degrees. And of course an infant's fever accompanied by other issues, such as vomiting, diarrhea, or listlessness and/or unexplained irritability, merits more prompt medical attention.
Ironically, in young children older than infancy but still far from puberty, a slightly elevated fever is less of a concern than with adults. Kids will often experience a fever of 102 or 103 degrees without it being a cause for concern. (Still take the time to seek medical intervention if you are concerned, of course.)
The Best Thermometer For The Job
A temperature reading obtained rectally or vaginally is generally considered the most accurate rendition of a patient's core temperature. When viable, these are the ideal methods, and any quality thermometer that can be used as such is a fine choice.
They might not fit the narrow ear canal of small children, though, and their accuracy can be impacted by a buildup of earwax.
Oral temperature readings can also be quite accurate, but only when a patient can patiently wait with the thermometer placed deep under his or her tongue. This makes oral thermometers a poor choice for use with younger children or with patients suffering from cognitive issues or physical infirmities. (Oral thermometers should not be used for at least fifteen minutes after a person eats or drinks, for the record.)
In ear thermometers give relatively accurate readings and most models record the temperature quickly, making them a decent choice for use in schools or clinics. They might not fit the narrow ear canal of small children, though, and their accuracy can be impacted by a buildup of earwax.
Infrared thermometers are non contact tools that measure heat by scanning a person's forehead are a fine choice for use with babies, sleeping patients, or for any other person who for can't be physically touched or manipulated. They are not quite as accurate as other options though, and if this type of thermometer indicates a potentially dangerous fever or low temperature, a second reading using another device may be advisable.
And always make sure to sterilize a thermometer after its use, especially if it is used in an environment shared by many people.
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