- No matter how many people are in your household, it’s smart to have a thermometer on hand because everyone, at some point, will get sick.
- Our top pick, the iProven Thermometer, has two temperature-reading functions that provide a quick, accurate reading.
- If you’re looking specifically to take the temperatures of infants or toddlers, check out our guide to the best baby thermometers.
- This article was medically reviewed by Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, MD, FAAP, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, and president of the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Editor’s note: Due to fluctuating stock, some of the recommendations on this list are either temporarily out of stock or currently back-ordered. We will update this piece with new information when we can.
The ability to quickly and accurately determine a person’s body temperature is an important factor in assessing their condition during an illness, after an injury, or in the event of exposure to inclement conditions. Whether you’re dealing with a temperamental toddler, a nonresponsive accident victim, or anyone in between, when you are trying to determine what is wrong with a person and to gauge the severity of the issue, a thermometer is a big component in the diagnostic process.
Thanks to today’s modern thermometers, getting a temperature reading is remarkably easy and safe. Gone are the days of sticking a mercury thermometer under the tongue and waiting for five minutes, and then trying in vain to read the temperature of where the rising red liquid leveled off – which is always an approximate, but never precise. It’s even possible to check your temperature if you don’t have access to a thermometer, too.
The thermometers in our guide get readings in myriad ways, but they all get results fast and with minimal chance of error.
Here are the best thermometers:
- Best thermometer overall: iProven Forehead and Ear Thermometer
- Best budget thermometer: Vicks ComfortFlex Digital Thermometer
- Best ear thermometer: Braun ThermoScan 7 Digital Ear Thermometer
- Best for children: Exergen Temporal Artery Thermometer
Updated on 7/15/2020 by Rick Stella: Added a link to an Insider article on how to check your temperature without a thermometer and checked the availability and prices of each recommended product. We continue to test new thermometer options and will update this guide accordingly.
The best thermometer overall
The iProven Thermometer can take readings through ear and forehead, so it's ideal for cross-referencing measurements to get accurate temperature readings.
The iProven Forehead and Ear Thermometer is remarkably easy to use, and it's designed for use on adults, kids, and babies. You operate it with a single press of a button, and readings are quickly displayed on a large, clear LCD screen. Second, the thermometer can take readings in two ways: ear or infrared. And finally, an automatic fever alarm takes the guesswork out of the equation.
The first method for attaining a temperature is to use its ear canal probe. You gently insert the ear probe, press the Ear button, and get your reading. To use the infrared forehead sensor, you pop on the infrared lens attachment, press the Head button, then either gently drag the sensor across the forehead or lightly tap it to several spots on the brow.
Using the ear probe will get you the most accurate results in the most efficient manner possible, but it might not always be a viable method with a fussy toddler or otherwise unwilling participant.
The infrared sensor requires leaving the thermometer in the room where it will be used for about a half-hour prior to measurement. This ensures it is at the room's temperature and thus can accurately determine body heat as a contrast. Gently swiping the sensor against the head of a resting patient will be minimally invasive and is an ideal option for babies.
While this thermometer works for the entire family, iProven also makes a version specifically for adults.
Pros: Dual measurement functions, easy operation, automatic fever alarm
Cons: Infrared sensor requires 30-minute calibration
The best budget thermometer
The Vicks ComfortFlex takes temperatures in multiple ways and the affordable price tag makes it a steal.
The Vicks ComfortFlex is a thermostat that can be used by people of all ages - it's safe to use for kids and babies. In our testing, we found readings to be accurate and easy to read on the digital display. It's affordable, so you can keep one for adults and one for kids.
For older kids and adults, the ComfortFlex can be used orally. For babies, you can place it under their arms or insert it rectally. Readings are accurate, but compared to the Vicks RapidRead, it's not as fast; the ComfortFlex registers between 8-to-11 seconds.
It's lightweight and slim enough to throw in a bag. For such a compact device, however, the ComfortFlex makes extremely loud beeps. And, you have to turn it off and turn it on again in order to take back-to-back temperature readings. - Les Shu
Pros: Affordable, multi-use, accurate, clear digital display, well-designed probe covers
Cons: Slow readings (by comparison) of 8-11 seconds, very loud beep, lag time when taking multiple readings
The best ear thermometer
What the Braun ThermoScan 7 Digital Ear Thermometer lacks in a wide range of functions, it makes up for in reliability and accuracy.
If you just want an exceptionally good thermometer that's easy to use, reliable, and will last for years, then the Braun ThermoScan 7 Digital Ear Thermometer is the one for you.
This is one of the most basic digital ear thermometers out there, but it's well-made. Thanks to its accuracy and durability, it's a number-one pick for use in pediatrician's offices and is the go-to choice for families.
Part of the reason this device is so accurate is the pre-warmed tip, a feature that not only helps with precise measurements but that also makes the experience of having temperature taken less unpleasant for the patient. The thermometer also emits a beep and lights up once good ear placement is achieved, so you know the measurement recorded is as accurate as possible.
Insider Reviews freelancer and certified postpartum doula PCD(DONA) Mandy Major tested the Braun ThermoScan 7 for her guide to the best baby thermometers. When testing the ThermoScan 7 on her daughter when she was healthy, she found the Braun struggled with accuracy, varying up to 0.5 degrees as compared to the other models. But when her daughter had the flu, the ThermoScan 7 was by far the most accurate model.
Majors said, "I felt bad for routinely checking her 103-plus degree fever with several thermometers, but I'm glad I did. The Kinsa, my early favorite, did not register fevers as accurately as it had with healthy temperatures. Braun's did. The tip was also easier to insert when she was sleeping."
Because the Braun ThermoScan 7 Ear Thermometer uses disposable ear probes, you can minimize the chance of spreading germs from one person to the next. This thermometer only has a single memory function and only takes temperatures in one manner (the ear).
Pros: Excellent accuracy when fever is present, lasts for years, replaceable covers limit germ spreading
Cons: Screen is not backlit, lesser accuracy when fever is not present
The best for children
The Exergen Temporal Artery Thermometer was the most accurate of all children's thermometers we tested. It's non-invasive, fast, and there's no downtime between repeated readings.
A temporal artery thermometer uses an infrared scanner to detect someone's temperature via the temporal artery in their forehead. Next to rectal thermometers, it's the most reliable way to get an accurate reading on children and babies over three months. Infants under three months should still have their temperature taken rectally for the most accurate reading, but in times where that's not possible, a temporal artery thermometer is a good alternative.
Insider Reviews freelancer and certified postpartum doula PCD(DONA) Mandy Major tested the Exergen Temporal Artery Thermometer for her guide to the best baby thermometers, and not only did it make her top pick for children older than three months, it also became her go-to thermometer in her own home.
Major says, "Upon repeated testing, the Exergen delivered the most accurate and consistent readings of any model tested. However, it's worth noting that the variations for most models were very minor - typically a variation of 0.3 degrees.
"Second to its accuracy, what I appreciate most about the Exergen is its ability to retake a temperature with no downtime in between. It makes quick work out of taking a temperature three times, something I always do at home. As a postpartum doula, I also encourage my clients to do this to ensure they are getting a consistent temporal temperature reading."
She did warn against a bit of user error that can occur if the sensor is not pressed flat against the forehead. For the most accurate reading, start at the center of the forehead and swipe back and forth.
The Exergen Temporal Artery Thermometer has a silent mode so as not to waken sleeping children, and its dim read-out screen serves the same purpose. The screen may be too dim to read in the dark, however.
Pros: Most accurate thermometer we tested, suitable for children older than three months, no downtime between readings
Cons: Dim readout screen, unintuitive settings menu
What else we considered
Disposable thermometers: Single-use disposable thermometers come in slender strips that can be used orally or tucked under an armpit. However, they have been shown to be so inaccurate that doctors do not recommend them.
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