A thermometer is a must-have in your first aid kit.
Having a sick child is stressful enough, so you want a thermometer that takes a quick accurate reading.
There are two main types of baby thermometers: digital probe and infrared digital. Whichever you choose, always read the instructions to ensure you get the most accurate reading. If you’re unsure, get your doctor to show you how to use it.
Probe models take oral and armpit readings, and most take rectal ones. These models usually claim an accuracy of +/- 0.1°C.
Infrared models take a reading in the ear canal or on the forehead or temple. They are less invasive than a probe thermometer and quicker to use (you’ll get a reading in a couple of seconds). Infrared models don’t claim to be as accurate as probe models (but most claim an accuracy of +/- 0.2°C, which is still acceptable).
Forehead models aren’t considered accurate for babies younger than three months of age.
You can also buy temperature strips. These plastic strips have heat-sensitive crystals that change colour to give a temperature reading. They are very easy to use but not very accurate so we don’t test them.
This should be easy to read. A large or backlit display is best.
This lets you know when the thermometer is ready to use and has finished taking a reading. It’s usually a beep.
Lets you know if a temperature is above normal.
Covers keep the thermometer clean and hygienic, but are an ongoing cost when you run out. Wiping the probe with sterilising alcohol between readings also does the trick.
Stores previous readings, which is useful for monitoring whether temperature is improving or stabilising.
Normal body temperature is 37°C, but this is only approximate. It varies from person to person and depends on the time of day and where you take the temperature. Armpit readings are usually 0.5°C lower than oral ones. A mild fever is over 38°C, and a high fever is over 39°C.
Babies under three months with a mild fever and babies between three and six months with a high fever should be checked by a doctor.
Here's how we find out which thermometers are accurate and easy to use.