The Best Thermometers for Your Medicine Cabinet
'Tis the season for staying in and getting cozy with your friends, family, and delightful neighborhood germs. When you get a side of sniffles with your turkey, time is of the essence. Fevers are a decent indicator of whether you'll be sidelined for 1–2 days or 1–2 weeks, but buying a thermometer during cold and flu season tends to be a last-minute affair.
You don't need to get caught off guard this year. We looked at the best options for checking yourself or your kids for a fever, but also found some thermometers that help you track specific health interests like ovulation. No matter what you're looking for, one of these thermometers will take the heat off your search.
Best Thermometer for Adults, Newborns, and Pets
To measure a fever for most adults, newborns, and pets, we recommend the Clinical Digital Thermometer from Generation Guard. In a sea of sameness, this thermometer stands out with its combination of accuracy, features, and great customer service. It measures temperatures orally, under arm, and rectally.
How Does It Work?
After turning it on, place the thermometer in your desired test position. A reading on this thermometer takes about 15 seconds. Around the 15 second mark, the thermometer will emit a few long beeps. At that point you can read the temperature.
The thermometer will keep reading the temperature if you leave it in place. Users found that the reading stabilized even further after an additional 10 seconds. We verified this in our test, but found the difference to be small. For the best results, you can wait 10 secs after the beeps, but for babies, fussy kids, and pets we don't think the difference is worth the extra time.
Once removed from the test position, the temperature locks. An easy-to-read LCD screen will display the temperature and will automatically turn off after 10 minutes.
- Accurate temperature readings in 15 seconds.
- Long, quiet beeps notify you about the initial measurement.
- If the temperature is above 100°F, a fever alarm beeps rapidly in sets of three.
- The screen displays the last recorded temperature when it's turned on.
- Its water-resistance makes it easy to clean.
- The flexible tip makes rectal use on babies and pets more comfortable. The grippy silicone exterior adds to the ease of use.
- Generation Guard's customer service is the most comprehensive of the digital stick thermometers we reviewed. In addition to a responsive team, they offer a 30 day refund and a one year replacement warranty for purchases on their site or Amazon.
What Could Be Better
- The display is not backlit, which makes reading temperatures in the dark challenging. If a backlit display is important to you we recommend the iProvèn DMT-489. We searched for a backlit digital stick alternative, but were unable to find one where a significant number of users did not report inaccurate temperature readings.
- A small, but noteworthy amount of Amazon reviews cite insufficient battery or receiving the product with a dead battery. If you receive a product with a dead battery, the thermometer is covered by a 30 day refund and a one year replacement warranty. To preserve battery life, Generation Guard recommends turning the product off once you are done using it. As a side note, the thermometer displays "Lo" for temperatures below 90°F. A battery symbol will appear on the screen if you're running low.
- Some users and Best Reviews noted the beep was difficult to hear, but we could hear our unit easily. If you can't hear your thermometer, we recommend reaching out to Generation Guard for a replacement.
Warranty and Customer Support
Generation Guard provides the most comprehensive customer support for these types of thermometers. This is one of the key reasons for our recommendation.
They offer refunds within 30 days and free replacements of defective units within a year. Although the one year warranty does not extend to the battery, units that reach the customer with a dead battery are eligible to be replaced. These policies apply to purchases through their site and Amazon.
It uses AG3/LR41 batteries and you can buy them here.
Best Thermometer for Kids
We recommend the iProvèn DMT-489 Thermometer for children because it's unobtrusive, fast and accurate. As an upgrade from digital stick thermometers, the DMT-489 gives almost instantaneous readings, has a backlit screen, can be used as an in-ear and forehead thermometer, and records more temperatures.
How Does It Work?
This dual-function thermometer is essentially an in-ear thermometer with a special adapter cap that also allows temporal (forehead) measurement.
For in-ear use, you remove the adapter cap and place the probe in the ear. Press the "Ear" button. For forehead use, the adapter cap needs to be on the probe. Hold down the "Head" button and swipe the infrared end of the thermometer across your forehead, from temple to temple. Let go of the button at the other side.* In 1–3 seconds, the thermometer will beep and light up to show you the temperature.
If you move the thermometer between rooms with widely differing room temperatures, the manufacturer recommends you give the thermometer up to 30 minutes to adjust for the most accurate readings.
*Note: Avoid swiping the thermometer over your hair because it affects the accuracy of the measurement. One of our testers' hair gave her a fever!
- Accurate temperature readings in 1–3 seconds.
- You get both types of infrared thermometers: in-ear and forehead. Forehead readings are a great option when your kid has an ear infection or significant wax buildup that could skew the measurement.
- A large, backlit screen for easy nighttime temperature reading.
- Color-coded fever alarms.
- The thermometer can store the last 20 temperatures, helping you track fevers over time.
- Most babies' ears are too small for any ear thermometer, but you can transition from forehead readings to in-ear readings.
What Could Be Better
- The ear probe tip doesn't pre-warm itself like some other ear thermometers. This can cause minor discomfort. If you find that this is an issue, you can use the temporal (forehead) measurement.
- Some users found the notification beep to be loud, but we thought the beep was a reasonable volume.
Warranty and Customer Service
With a "hassle-free" 100-day return policy and great customer service, you can try one of these slightly pricier thermometers out without much risk. Most of the time, you don't have to ship the product back in order to get a refund, as long as you can confirm your order. You can also register the thermometer to add another year to its standard one year warranty, regardless of where you bought it.
Best Thermometer For Techies
Do you want your thermometer to give you more data than mere degrees? There's an app for that.
We recommend the Kinsa Smart Stick thermometer for tech-friendly users who want a smarter thermometer and don't mind a little extra setup time. The batteryless Smart Stick and its corresponding app give you accurate readings, the ability to create multiple user profiles, health tracking and tips, and information about local illnesses.
How Does It Work?
In order to use the Smart Stick, you need to plug it into a compatible smartphone's 3 mm headphone jack. iPhone 7 and up users will need an additional adapter. The first time you use your Smart Stick, you use the included calibration adapter to connect the thermometer to your phone.
Once you're all set, on the app's home screen, tap "Take Temperature." Choose your reading location and connect your Smart Stick directly to your phone (you can also use the extension cord). A progress screen with moving bubbles appears once the thermometer is in place. After about 12 seconds, you'll see the temperature on your phone.
From there, you can add photos and symptoms for future reference. If the the app determines a reading shows a high fever, you'll also see health care guidelines based on the user's age and symptoms.
- Accurate temperature readings in 12 seconds. For increased accuracy, you can enable a long read mode in the app's settings.
- No batteries are required.
- The free Kinsa Smart Thermometer app (available on iOS and Android) connects to Apple HealthKit.
- You can create multiple user profiles.
- The thermometer's flexible tip is covered in a grippy silicone to make readings more comfortable and to prevent slippage.
- Based on your temperature, symptoms, age, and sex, the app provides health care tips sourced from Mayo Clinic.
- The progress screen is a bubble-popping game that can distract kids while they wait.
- Parents can use the app to find out what bugs are going around local schools. Kinsa currently aggregates health information from over 600 schools throughout the U.S.
- Through data from local users, older users will also get a sense of what common illnesses are going around their city.
- Since the reading appears on your phone, you can make the notification as loud or quiet as you want.
What Could Be Better
- The Kinsa Smart Stick itself is useless without the app on a compatible smartphone. Also, you'll need to avoid upgrading your phone or updating your operating system until the Kinsa team catches up.
- Using the Smart Stick without the extension cord was awkward. It felt like holding your phone in front of your mouth when it's on speakerphone.
- You will probably lose the extension cord if you disconnect it. The Smart Stick snugly snaps into the cord and it's not easy to unplug accidentally. We recommend keeping them connected and storing them together in the included case.
- Their lukewarm return policy requires users to pay for shipping.
- The iOS app proved to be less intuitive than the Android app when we tested this thermometer.
Warranty and Customer Service
The 30-day return policy on opened or unopened thermometers only applies to sales made directly through Kinsa's website and return shipping isn't covered. With a price tag that hovers around $15, return shipping might not be worth the refund.
The Kinsa Smart Stick comes with a one year warranty that only covers the thermometer. It also applies to purchases made through Amazon. A faulty thermometer will be repaired or replaced by Kinsa, but you will have to pay for shipping (unless your state prohibits it).
Note: We've yet to take it for a spin, but Kinsa has updated the Smart Stick with a new Bluetooth model.
Best Thermometer for Family Planning
If someone tries to sell you a basal body thermometer (BBT) that only measures your temperature to a tenth of a degree, don't trust them. iProvèn impressed us again with their BBT-113Ai which takes temperatures to two decimal points. We recommend this option for anyone who wants to chart their basal temperatures for family planning purposes.
How Does It Work?
In the wee hours of the morning, you turn on the thermometer and place it in your preferred testing position. After at least one minute, you'll hear four beeps notifying you that the measurement is complete. This measurement is considered a constant temperature and is determined by the temperature rising less than 0.1°C within 16 seconds. Record the temperature.
If you want to use this as a fever thermometer, you can, but it will take 1–2 minutes to get a reading.
- The temperatures are recorded to 1/100 of a degree, which is ideal for tracking when you ovulate. The more detailed the reading is, the better you'll be able to understand your cycle.
- It takes up to two minutes to record a stable temperature. The longer read time ensures accuracy by allowing the sensors to adjust to the body's temperature.
- You can recall the last temperature if it's too dark or in the morning or you forget to write it down.
- Soft beeps notify you about a reading so you don't have to time it.
What Could Be Better
- The screen isn't backlit which makes reading temperatures in the dark challenging. Another iProvèn model with a backlight and a few of its competitors caught our eye. The backlit iProvèn BBT-113i came the closest in overall quality, but the thermometer is too new to the market for us to assess its long term value. The light itself is strobe-like while in use (discos at dawn, anyone?). If a backlight is a must-have for you, buy the BBT-113i here.
- The thermometer's tip isn't flexible and is a bit slippery since it's made of plastic, not silicone. Women who prefer to record their basal body temperature vaginally or rectally may find this uncomfortable.
Warranty and Customer Service
iProvèn's great customer service and "hassle-free" 100-day return policy make it easy to take this thermometer for a whirl. Since you'll be using more often than you would a fever thermometer, you'll know pretty quickly whether this is your Goldilocks BBT.
Most of the time, you don't have to ship the product back in order to get a refund, as long as you can confirm your order. You can also register the thermometer to add another year to its standard one year warranty, regardless of where you bought it.
When it comes to your health, taking your body's temperature can have a variety of applications. Usually, you want to know if you or a loved one is running a fever, but thermometers are also valuable tools for monitoring illness and family planning.
The toxicity of mercury thermometers led to a rise in digital and infrared thermometers with extremely competitive features. Digital thermometers use heat sensors to measure oral, axillary (underarm), and rectal temperatures while infrared models use infrared technology to measure in-ear or temporal (forehead) temperatures.
Body temperatures for the same person vary depending on where you measure them. In-ear and rectal temperature readings are higher than oral readings while under arm and forehead readings are cooler. This means that a rectal temperature could be a full 2°F higher than an armpit reading.
Please note that, in order to get accurate oral readings, you should wait 15 minutes after eating or drinking anything.
For further guidance on temperature variations and to see which test position is age-appropriate for your kids, see the table below. Though rectal readings are the most accurate, we used oral readings as our baseline since it's the most common test position.
Pacifier thermometers, though increasingly popular, are not currently recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP doesn't believe there's enough evidence to support the reliability of these thermometers, so they were omitted from our analysis. Based on several studies and the Mayo Clinic's endorsement, we did, however, include forehead thermometers for use on newborns and toddlers alike.
Now that you know who can use which thermometer, how do you tell the great ones apart from the duds? It all comes down to what features you value and how many people's temperatures you need to take.
Infrared thermometers offer the fastest results (at a price), but speedy readings on regular digital readings are usually predictive. While these readings provide accurate guesses, actual body temperature takes longer than a few seconds to record. Temperature recall can help prevent frequent measurements in the heat of the moment, which are often inaccurate because most thermometers require 30–60 seconds to cool down.
Backlit screens can either be blindingly bright or make nighttime measurements a breeze. Loud, signaling beeps stir children and aggravate headaches, but complete silence turns a self-reading into a nearly impossible feat. You should also consider how invasive you want your thermometer to be, especially when taking care of sick kids.
The most common feature that can make or break any thermometer is battery life. You can stock up on obscure or standard batteries, or maybe you don't want to deal with batteries at all.
If you're interested in thermometers beyond the scope of the common cold, there are other features you want to consider. App connectivity can store your symptom history and tether your temperature to a comprehensive health journal which can be useful to doctors or for your personal medical history.
If you are looking for a thermometer to help with family planning, you need a basal body thermometer (BBT). This kind of thermometer should measure temperature to the 1/100th of a degree in order to track the subtle temperature changes of an ovulation window. When choosing a BBT, a longer read time is preferred to ensure the high level of accuracy these measurements require.
How We Chose Our Picks
Taking all these factors into consideration, we went to bat for your family. We delved into medical journals and associations' recommendations to find out what the safest options were for your family. Armed with that knowledge, we cross-referenced professional reviews from The Sweethome, Consumer Reports, and Best Reviews with user reviews from Amazon, Target, Walmart, and major pharmacy chains. After we could see again, we tested our picks against a Welch Allyn SureTemp Plus 690 thermometer at a doctor's office. We were then able to determine which thermometer would be the most reliable for your physical (and emotional) needs.
Note: If using a thermometer rectally, label it as such and clean it thoroughly between uses. In general, regardless of a thermometer's level of waterproofing, do not boil any of these thermometers to sterilize them. These aren't your grandmother's thermometers; rubbing alcohol or antibacterial soap and water will work just fine.