Your Ultimate Guide to Baby Thermometers

The thermometer is an essential item in the ‘new baby kit’ so it’s worth investing in. It can get confusing when trying to decide which one to buy, so we’ve put together this handy guide to baby thermometers.

There are few things worth thinking about when deciding what type of technology to invest in when it comes to buying a thermometer. You’ll be looking for accuracy, first and foremost. Followed by ease of use and then you’ll want a good quality, robust thermometer that will last you and your family through those early years, and beyond.

Accuracy of the temperature reading varies depending on how you take your baby’s temperature.  The closer to the body’s ‘core’ or internal temperature the better. While rectal temperatures are thought to be most accurate, tympanic (via the ear) is more practical and the method most used by doctors. The Australian Government website Raising Children states that a normal temperature range for children is between 36.5 and 38 degrees, although the exact definition of a ‘fever’ can change with your baby’s age.

Here is a list of pros and cons of the most popular types:

Digital Probe Thermometer

These can be used for the under arm, oral or rectal methods. They can be difficult to use as you need to keep your baby still while their temperature is read, and can be invasive (ie. rectal, oral or under the arm). So they are useful when you have a tiny baby, but once your baby is on the move, the thermometer can be difficult to place for an accurate reading. It can also take up to a minute to get a definitive temperature.

Ear Thermometer

These work by inserting an ear probe into the ear canal, and use infrared rays to read the body temperature. Ear thermometers provide very fast and accurate readings as long as the thermometer is positioned correctly. Some models will retain a temperature history so you can access previous readings if you are worried your baby’s temperature is increasing. Some even come with a night light and cradle to make it easier to use at night. They also come with a specially contoured tip so it’s comfortable for your baby. When using an ear thermometer don’t forget to use a lens filter with each reading – not only is it hygienic but it also enhances the accuracy of the technology.

Look out for clever new tech features that make temperature measurement super accurate ie. The ability to input your child’s age to get correct fever guidance, or a ‘pre warmed tip’ that warms up the ear probe for the most accurate result.

Always read the label and follow the directions for use.

Forehead & Touchless Thermometers

Also using infrared rays to gauge the body’s temperature, the major advantage is that it’s non-invasive, making it easy to continually monitor your baby’s temperature as they sleep.  They can be a good complement to an ear thermometer for this reason.  They are fast and easy to use and don’t require the purchase of any added extras. Some have dual functions – you can either touch the forehead, or scan from a distance.  A major benefit is that it’s non-invasive.   Another ‘new tech’ unique to forehead thermometers is the ability to measure body temperature, bath water and food temperatures all in the one device.

However, care is needed to get positioning exactly right for accuracy – this is particularly important during serious or ongoing illness.

‘Smart’ Thermometers

Smart thermometers require your baby to wear a patch or sticker on their body (usually placed under the arm or close to their chest), which is synced to an app on your phone. It provides continuous monitoring of your baby’s temperature while they are wearing the patch. It delivers real time information on your baby’s temperature to your phone without having to disturb them.

Relatively new to the market, there have been some questions raised about the ‘Smart’ thermometer’s accuracy. To gain an accurate reading the child’s arm needs to be covering the patch so if your child sleeps with their arms above their head, you may need to take their temperature manually to be sure. The patch can also come loose or fall off the baby while they sleep.

Temperature Strips

Temperature Strips are plastic strips with heat-sensitive crystals that change colour to give a temperature reading. These are easy to use and transport but are not considered to be particularly accurate.

A few things to note about a fever in babies are:

  • A fever is not an illness in itself, but rather a sign of an illness.
  • If your baby is under three months and has a fever they need to see a doctor immediately.
  • If they have a fever and are between the ages of 3 to 12 months, you should seek medical attention on the same day.

You can read more about managing fevers here. If you have further questions or concerns about how best to monitor your child during a fever, seek the advice of your doctor or maternal health nurse.

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