Pros & Cons Of Each Baby Thermometer

Choosing a thermometer for babies can be a bit overwhelming with the different types on the market. Fortunately for parents who are not comfortable with certain ways of taking a temperature to see if babies have a fever, there are several areas on the body to provide temperature readings. All of which have their pros and cons to use.

Whether babies are receptive to those ways and how accurate they are is another story and will likely be the determining factor when it comes to which thermometer parents ultimately use.


All baby thermometers have their positive and negative attributes. From having to deal with squirming babies to get an accurate temperature to thermometers not giving the most accurate readings, parents are asked to piece together the information they have. This means taking things such as babies’ moods, symptoms, as well as temperature to determine if there is a problem with babies.

Then, if an illness appears to be present, doctors’ offices will have their own methods still of taking temperatures. Leaving parents wondering which thermometers truly the best one for home use.

RELATED: Top Digital Thermometers For Checking A Baby’s Temperature

Here are the different types of baby thermometers and the pros and cons to each one.

Forehead Thermometer

The forehead thermometer or an infrared thermometer is one of the most popular types of thermometers for parents when taking a baby’s temperature. It is non-invasive, takes just a moment to use, and there is no waiting to get the results of the reading.

According to WebMD, the infrared thermometer works by using an infrared scanner to take the temperature of the artery on the forehead. The temporal artery temperature will vary based on whether babies are fighting an illness or not.

The reading is one of the most accurate of all the thermometers. And as long as parents can keep infants in one spot while scanning the forehead, they will know instantly whether intervention is necessary.

Pros to using forehead thermometers per the publication:

  • Accurate
  • Easy to use
  • Non-invasive
  • Can be done while babies sleep

Cons to using forehead thermometers according to WebMD:

  • Cannot be used in direct sunlight
  • Cannot be used in colder temperatures
  • Will not give an accurate reading with a sweaty forehead
  • Reads 0.5 to 1 F lower than oral thermometers

As long as the instructions are followed, it is possible to get an accurate read that will allow parents to make a determination if babies are ill or not.

Rectal Thermometer

For parents who are comfortable taking a rectal temperature of their babies, they are going to get one of the most accurate readings possible for their little ones. This is because unlike other methods that may be affected by room temperature or if something warm or cold was consumed, unlike rectal temperatures are not altered by any of that because thy are taking an internal temperature. This is something that will not vary unless an illness is present.

According to VeryWell Healththe way that rectal temperatures are taken include:

  • Put petroleum jelly or water-soluable lubricant on the end of the thermometer
  • Put babies on their backs and push knees to the chest
  • Insert the thermometer one inch into the anus
  • Leave thermometer in place until it beeps
  • Remove the thermometer and see what the temperature is
  • Disinfect thermometer before putting it away

It is not difficult to take a temperature rectally. But it does depend on the comfort level of parents whether this method will be used or not.

Pros to using a rectal thermometer according to VeryWell Health:

  • Most accurate reading
  • Easy to do
  • Short wait time for results

Cons to using a rectal thermometer per the publication:

  • Parents uncomfortable taking it
  • Temperature reads 0.5 F higher than oral temperature readings

If parents can get past their discomfort, rectal thermometer readings will give them the information they need.

Ear Thermometer

The ear canal can provide information to parents as to whether babies are suffering from a fever or not. And because it is simple to operate, it is a favorite of parents to use.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the ear thermometer works to take the temperature of the body via the tympanic membrane. The temperature in the ear is similar to that of the rest of the body. As such, once the timer goes off, parents have the information they need to determine if babies have a fever or not.

To use the thermometer, per the publication the scanner from the thermometer goes directly into the ear canal. As soon as the timer goes off, the thermometer is ready to be read.

Pros of using an ear thermometer according to the Mayo Clinic:

  • Simple to use
  • Digital reading

Cons of using an ear thermometer per the publication:

  • Cannot be used on babies younger than six months old
  • Can give an incorrect reading if ear wax is present
  • Small ear canal can give an incorrect reading
  • Runs 0.5 F higher than oral thermometer readings

If babies will settle long enough to get a good reading, an ear thermometer may be a great choice for parents and their little ones.

Ear/Forehead Combo Thermometer

For parents who want options when it comes to taking their babies’ temperatures, the ear/forehead combo thermometer may be a good choice to determine if babies have a fever.

According to Baby Gear Lab, the ear/forehead thermometer works by either taking an infrared temperature of the forehead or the temperature in the ear. The technology is the same for those thermometers that take temperatures one way or the other. There are just interchangeable heads that allow this to happen.

Pros for using the ear/forehead combo thermometer per the publication:

  • Easy to use
  • Temperature from head can be taken when baby sleeps
  • Accurate readings

Cons for using the ear/forehead combo thermometer according to Baby Gear Lab:

  • Air temperature can influence reading
  • Ear needs to be pulled to take temperature which could be uncomfortable
  • Changing heads can be confusing
  • Changing heads and not putting them on correctly can lead to incorrect readings

For parents who like versatility when it comes to taking a temperature, an ear/forehead combo thermometer may be just the ticket for determining if babies are ill or not.

With the advent of COVID, the no-contact thermometer has become very popular for taking children’s temperatures. And with all it taking is a push of a button to get a read, it has become a go-to for parents.

According to Cherub Baby, no-contact thermometers can be used in a snap if babies appear hot to the touch. They provide results in seconds flat by placing the thermometer just in front of babies’ foreheads. The results then inform parents if healthcare officials need to be contacted or not.

Pros of using a no-contact thermometer, per the publication:

  • Easy to use
  • Can be used when babies sleep
  • Fast results
  • Disinfecting not needed between uses
  • Results are 97% accurate

Cons of using a no-contact thermometer, according to Cherub Baby:

  • Room temperature can affect reading
  • If babies move the reading can be affected
  • Not all no-contact thermometers are calibrated to be accurate across the board

Using no-contact thermometers will generally give parents an indication if there is something amiss when it comes to babies’ health. However, it may not be as accurate as other thermometer readings.

Arm Pit Thermometer

While a temperature can be taken from the arm pit, because of how difficult it is to take, it is not always accurate. And because of this, doctors recommend other methods of checking for a fever than under the arm pit.

According to What To Expect, the axillary thermometers are placed under the arm pit until the timer beeps. Because this can be several minutes, babies have to remain still and keep the thermometer tightly under the arm. Any variance from this will give a skewed reading.

  • Pros of using the arm pit thermometer per the publication:
  • Easy to understand directions
  • Digital reading on the thermometer

Cons of using the arm pit thermometer according to What To Expect:

  • Last accurate of thermometers
  • Babies unable to remain still for time it takes to get a reading
  • Easy to get an inaccurate read

If there were no other options, taking an axillary reading is better than nothing. But when it comes to accurate reads, there are better ways to check a baby for a fever.

Source: WebMD, VeryWell Health, Mayo Clinic, Baby Gear Lab, Cherub Baby, What To Expect

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