When our first baby was born, we probably checked his temperature once every couple of weeks, constantly thinking he might have a fever that we didn't want to miss. Fussy? Warm forehead? Sleeping at irregular times? Waking during the night? Check for a fever! And if that wasn't enough, once he actually had a fever we monitored it like crazy people to make sure it didn't worsen and the medicine was working. With all the paranoia, it's not surprising we went through baby thermometers like diapers. We tried the rectal ones, forehead (called "temporal") ones, oral/mouth ones, and the ear (called "tympanic") ones. After years of use we are happy to say that we not only have gotten out of the fever phase (fingers crossed!) but also did the work for you in figuring out which ones are the best.

What to look for in a baby thermometer.

Accuracy. First of all, you want the thermometer to be accurate. What that means is that you want it to take an accurate (valid) reading, likely within +/- 0.2 degrees of your baby's temperature. Below we give you the run-down on which measurement method (ear, forehead, mouth, rectal, armpit) is most accurate, based on published scientific data.

Reliability. Second, you want the thermometer to be reliable. What this means is that it will accurately read your baby's temperature if you used it 5 times in a row - instead of giving a different reading every time, you want it to be stable.

Rapid readings. Third, you want the thermometer to be fast. No parent wants to hold a thermometer anywhere for over 10-15 seconds, especially not with a fussy baby who doesn't feel good to begin with.

Easy to use. Finally, you want it to be convenient and easy to use. You do not want to take out the instructions every time to figure out how to use it, change the batteries every few weeks, or have something so bulky or fragile that you can't easily take it with you when traveling. Note that we do not recommend any of the traditional glass and mercury thermometers; they are fragile, dangerous, and sometimes take forever to get an accurate reading.

So what is the most accurate type of thermometer?

Rectal Thermometers: Rectal is the gold standard for assessing a fever temperature, and will always be the most accurate. To use a rectal thermometer, you need to insert the thermometer about a half-inch into the rectum and wait about 10-15 seconds for the temperature to be read. Awkward and frustrating at the same time, especially with a squirming and fussy baby. If you are willing to go through with rectal, many pediatricians recommend shifting to another method (like oral, forehead, or ear) after your baby turns 3. Note that many pediatricians require you to use a rectal thermometer if you're calling them to report a fever (so maybe keep one around for backup, even if you choose another method). 

Oral Thermometers: These tend to underestimate fever temperatures relative to rectal, which means that whatever reading you get on an oral thermometer, you can generally add about 1 degree to it for accuracy.

Tympanic Thermometers: These measure temperature at the ear drum (the tympanic membrane), and tend to both over- and under-estimate temperatures; so that makes it very difficult to get an accurate reading. In general, you will be over or under the actual temperature by about 1-2 degrees when using a tympanic thermometer.

Forehead Thermometers: A new popular option measures fevers by scanning the forehead using infrared light. This forehead method is also less accurate than rectal (in both the positive and negative directions), but we've had some great luck with the Vive or iProven models (see below). In general, though they are less accurate than rectal, we've found that variation versus rectal is only over- or under-estimating by about 0.5 degrees.

Armpit Thermometers: These tend to under-estimate fever temperatures by about 1 degree, so if you use an oral thermometer in the armpit, you'll want to add about 1 degree to it for an accurate reading.

Overall, we strongly suggest rectal as the best baby thermometer, but as a back-up we suggest oral or infrared forehead thermometers. 

Here are the best baby and kid thermometers of 2017.


#1. iProven Oral and Rectal ThermometerIf you're going to use the rectal method, which we do recommend with a baby under 1 year old, this is the thermometer to check out. It is also excellent as an oral thermometer, though of course all oral thermometers slightly underestimate how high a fever is. This iProven model is definitely the best thermometer we've tested. First, it gives very fast and accurate readings. In our testing, most readings took under 10 seconds, with the longest being about 12 seconds. Second, it's flexible and can be used as a rectal thermometer, an axial thermometer (armpit), or an oral thermometer for when you're dealing with an older kid (or yourself!). Third, it has some awesome features: it categorizes the temperature as Good, High, or Too High, it has a soft flexible tip, the numbers are easy to read, and it is waterproof. So you'll not only have peace of mind that you're getting an accurate reading, but you'll also not have to worry about getting it wet to make sure you're washing it well after use. In our testing, we found the readings to be very reliable: over the course of 5 consecutive reads, it only varied by about 0.2 degrees maximum, which is quite good. Also, did we mention how inexpensive this thermometer is? It's typically under $15 online, and sometimes can be found for around $10. Overall, this is an excellent and versatile thermometer that we highly recommend!


#2. Vicks Baby Rectal Thermometer (model V934)Here is another excellent baby thermometer, that is just as accurate in its readings as the iProven model, but not quite as versatile. It is excellent for rectal readings: it has an intentionally short tip to prevent over-insertion, and a great grip and angle for rectal use. But this shape makes it way too short for oral or armpit use, so it's quite a bit limited. If you're worried about possibly inserting a longer thermometer a bit too far, then this is a great option for giving you peace of mind that you're doing things the right way and baby won't be harmed during the process. This is one of the best-selling rectal baby thermometer on the market in 2017, and for some really good reasons. It is a fast, accurate, and reliable thermometer that takes only about 10-15 seconds to get a good reading with. And the reading is actually very good, and we found that the iProven and Vicks gave basically identical readings in our testing. There are some great features here. First, using it is simple: you turn it on, wait a couple seconds (it will first show what your last reading was), and then when the screen shows dashes it is ready to use. You want to put on a little bit of lubricant on it (we use Vaseline), then you're ready. Gently insert it into your baby's rectum, no more than one half inch. This thermometer is great because you simply want to put in the entire shiny metal portion of the probe, so this takes out the guess-work and keeps you from putting it in too deep and harming your baby. Once it has an accurate reading it will beep and the screen will light up. Takes about 15 seconds total to get an accurate reading. So it's not quite as fast as the iProven thermometer, but it is very accurate, portable, and pretty easy to use. Several others on the market tend to take longer to get a reading, are less accurate, and tend to stop working after a few months. 


#3. Vive Clinical Forehead Thermometer. This FDA Approved infrared thermometer is truly awesome and highly recommended overall for a versatile, accurate, and fast thermometer. This is a contact-free thermometer, which means that you don't even need to put it physically on the forehead. Instead, you point it at the forehead and make a left-right sweeping motion. It uses infrared light to measure hospital-grade accurate temporal artery temperatures. But here's the best part: it gives you a reasonably accurate read in about 2-3 seconds or so! Simply hold it about 3/4 to 1 inch from the forehead, starting on one side and sweeping it over to the other. So why do we say "reasonably accurate"? Well, forehead thermometers are definitely not as accurate as rectal or oral thermometers. This unit, and the one below, does do a pretty good job. In our testing, we compared it to a rectal thermometer and found that it was typically within 0.5 degrees of the rectal reading. That's really great for such a convenient method. Not only is it accurate and super fast, it's also really easy to use and definitely the most versatile one on this list. In terms of ease of use, it has a nice back-lit display that you can easily read even in dark rooms. It has intuitive buttons, one to switch from Celcius to Fahrenheit, one to change the mode (more on that later), and one to mute it so there are no beeps to wake a sleeping baby. When you do a reading, it shows you what it's measuring continuously, and at the end it shows you the highest read temperature. Now back to the modes. Here's the cool thing: infrared light can measure the temperature of anything in your house. Want to measure the temperature of your baby's room? Put it on the room setting and check it out! Want to measure the temperature of that bottle of milk you just warmed? Put it on the object setting and check it out! Any object you want to measure the temperature of, you can now do at the tip of your fingers. So not only is this a super accurate and well made forehead thermometer, you can also use it for a ton of other uses around the house. Overall, this is the best forehead thermometer on the market, and we highly recommend it!

iproventhermometer#4. iProven Medical DMT-489 Forehead Thermometer. This FDA Approved thermometer is relateively new to the market, and it has really been making waves. If you are timid or otherwise uncomfortable with using a rectal thermometer, this is a good the option for you. One of the best features of this thermometer is that it can measure both forehead (temporal) and ear (temporal) temperature, and it does it in about 5-10 seconds. It uses an adapter on the top that you can swap between a probe for the ear, or a wide curved surface for the forehead. Both of them work wonderfully and seem to be highly accurate. You must read the instructions, however, to make sure you're positioning it in the right location on the forehead. Also make sure the sensors are clean because they are very sensitive to dirt or oil - you can clean with a bit of alcohol if needed. Note that you need to factor in a bit of a difference between a forehead and rectal reading. Most of the time, a forehead thermometer will read about half a degree (0.5 deg) to a full degree (1 deg) lower than a rectal temperature. So if it measures about 101, your baby is likely about 101.5-102 deg F. Always confirm high numbers with a rectal thermometer and a trip to the pediatrician. We tried to test out the ear (tympanic) version a bit, but didn't find it quite as easy to position properly. So the convenience factor is great here, as is the flexibility to use it for forehead or ear, and the accuracy. Not quite as versatile or easy to use as our higher-ranked thermometers, though it does fit nicely in the hand and do a nice job with forehead temperature readings.


#5. Generation Guard Oral and Rectal Thermometer. This is another FDA Approved thermometer, much simpler than the forehead one above, but a great contender for those looking for an oral or rectal thermometer. Note that all oral thermometers can double as a rectal thermometer as well (but be very careful with depth of insertion). They can also be used for armpit measurement, though we do not recommend that method. From what we've read in the scientific literature, the oral thermometer gives the second-best accuracy next to a rectal thermometer, though it does tend to under-estimate fever temperatures. This thermometer is basically like the one your mom used on you when you were younger, except now it is safer (no fragile tube of mercury!), digital, and easier to use and read. Simply turn it on, wait for the screen to show dashed lines, and put it under your child's tongue and have them close their mouth until it beeps. If you can get your kid to do that (we couldn't until they were about 5-6 years old!), you'll get a very accurate reading. If they let it pop out from under the tongue or open their mouth at all, you'll get an inaccurate reading. So if you trust your kid will keep it in their mouth correctly, oral thermometers are an excellent choice. If not, we recommend going with the rectal method, or using one of the forehead models. This somewhat basic digital thermometer is a bit more expensive than the rectal version since it can be used for oral or rectal, but about half of the price of a forehead thermometer. But with some good features like a flexible tip, rubberized cover, a 15-second reading time, and slim portable form factor. It's also waterproof, and a clear plastic case is included. We've put this relatively low on the list because while it's comparable to our #1 thermometer, it takes a bit longer to get an accurate reading, and doesn't categorize fever temperatures as low/medium/high.

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